Scientists wirelessly modulate neurons using x-rays

The researchers made an important discovery by the method of wireless modulation of neurons using X-rays. The team believes the discovery could help treat and improve the lives of people with brain disorders. The technique requires an X-ray source, such as an apparatus located in a dental office.

Researchers say people around the world suffer from brain disorders associated with movements such as epilepsy, essential tremor and Parkinson’s disease. The new treatment can help alleviate these problems, and it was invented by researchers from the Argonne National Laboratory at the US Department of Energy in collaboration with researchers from four universities. The treatment relies on discoveries in optics and genetics and can potentially help treat chronic depression and pain.

Treatment involves stimulating neurons deep in the brain by injecting nanoparticles that illuminate when exposed to X-rays. The ability to inject nanomaterials would eliminate the intense brain surgery used today. Researchers believe that a highly accurate non-invasive approach could be routine with the use of a small X-ray machine as is common in a dental office.

Traditionally, deep brain stimulation requires invasive neurosurgery and the implantation of a calibrated pulse generator under the skin. The cables are connected to electrodes inserted into specific areas of the brain to stimulate surrounding neurons and regulate abnormal impulses in the traditional procedure.

The team’s new approach is an alternative to optical genetics using nanooscillators injected into the brain, without requiring implanted electrodes or optical wires. Lasers used in traditional treatment are being replaced by X-rays that can easily pass through biological tissues. The injected nanoparticles absorb the extra energy by turning it into red light. The particles were found to be stable over months and with repeated exposure to high-intensity X-rays. They are currently under investigation.