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Hydrocephalus Treatment to be Enhanced by Usage of Brain Fluid Sensors

Innumerable people in the U.S. are annually being diagnosed to have Hydrocephalus or “Water in the Brain”, showing manifestations that range from walking problems to dangerous convulsions or fits.

The usual treatment consists of implanting a shunt to redirect the superfluous cerebrospinal fluid to the abdomen or other parts of the body which could ingest them or soak them up. However, these shunts having survived over the years without any progression or changes made on them for a period of 50+ years are highly capricious and frequently collapse after being implanted in the patient.

A University of Illinois’ Associate professor (Bio-engineering), Andreas Linninger having been inspired by a physician during a meeting decided to devise a new technique to manage the disease. Using a grant of $423,000 from National Institute of Neurological Disorders & Stroke, he set out to experiment with a volume sensor of his own creation on an animal model to control the flow of fluid. According to Linninger, using shunts were not the ideal solution, as shunts work in extreme ways, either draining too much liquid or too little a quantity, leading to breakdown of the brain ventricles or cavities.

Linninger strived to design an equipment, which would precisely provide the ventricular dimensions and at the same time keep it steady, by the use of a virtual feedback control system. Along with a couple of students, Sukhi Basti and Tim Harris, he devised a micro electric sensor utilizing their skills in mathematics and engineering, which would help in giving an insight into the brain ventricles and also monitor the stashed fluid in them. The maiden tests were done on rats having hydrocephalus. Linninger stated that at first, brief trials were conducted to gauge the quantity of fluid displaced over short intervals of time (hours). Later they kept the animals under surveillance for longer periods (weeks) to trace the ventricular dimensions. Eventually, Linninger aspires to link together a regulated micro pump with a volume sensor to sustain the correct levels of fluid.

Currently, inert shunts depending on pressure are used to remove the surfeit fluid. Lininger’s team believes that a commercial company would be interested on seeing the results of the animal tests and help in producing this product for the use of the patients.

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