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Cold could someday be used to treat epilepsy

​The Epicool project is investigating the use of optics to cool epileptogenic areas in the brains of epilepsy patients resistant to other treatments. A prototype implantable device is currently being developed and will be miniaturized before animal testing begins.

Published on 5 July 2018

Scientists have known since the 1930s that applying cold directly to the areas of the brain responsible for epilepsy can stop seizures. Researchers have continued to look into the idea of very locally cooling epileptogenic areas of the brain. However, the method does present one major challenge: how to locally evacuate heat from areas of the brain that are, in most cases, functional and deep.

Grenoble University Medical Center and Clinatec (Leti, CEA Tech) have joined forces under the Epicool project to develop an implantable medical device to treat cases of epilepsy that are resistant to conventional drug-based treatments. The concept is based on an emerging technology. The first phase of the project focused on adapting the technology to the target application. The most appropriate critical components were selected and a cooling bench was developed in the lab.

This first phase has now been completed. The researchers will now miniaturize the device, ensure that it can operate in conditions (pressure, temperature, etc.) characteristic of the brain, and design appropriate packaging. Only then can animal testing begin—a milestone the project team plans to reach in the second half of 2018.

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