Researchers from the University of California Santa Barbara (UCSB) have developed the world’s tiniest hammer, called microHammer, to help treat brain injuries and disorders like Alzheimer’s.
Kimberly Turner, one of the researchers at UCSB, stated that cells have shown to respond to the mechanical forces of microHammer. However, inadequate research in the area of understanding individual reactions of nueral cells to forces has placed limitations on the amount of relaible pressure that can be applied through the hammer.
Presently, microHammer is undergoing characterization. In this process, the types and magnitudes of forces that it can deliver are being measured and recorded for analysis. Soon, microHammer might be used for the first set of neuron-smashing tests.
These tests will provide an abundance of information which can be used for the better and deeper understanding of brain injuries and neural conditions such as Alzheimer’s. Further, it may also help in the prophylaxis of brain injuries by using the technology to design a helmet which can shield against these.
MicroHammer’s application could also be extended to cells beyond the brain and help the researchers to understand the impact of forces on other cell types and apply this knowledge in diagnostic and clinical realms, especially for the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease.
Characteristics of MicroHammer
- MicroHammer is a cellular scale device that has been developed to tap, strike, poke and squeeze individual neural cells which generates
- These responses can then be recorded and analyzed and this new information could help unravel the complexities of the brain, which could be further used in therapy.
- MicroHammer has been built using a cell-sorting technology which is used in medical diagnostics and immunotherapies.
- MicroHammer is built in such a way that it impacts each and every cell through variable physical forces.
Potential benefits of microHammer
Megan Valentine from UCSB stated that this research will facilitate precise measurements of the biological and physiological changes that are brought when the cells are subjected to different types of mechanical loading including small, high-force and high-speed impacts.
Valentine added that this innovation will provide significantly high impact forces which were not possible previously. By modeling these tools into microfluidic devices, one can monitor multiple on-chip imaging and diagnostic tools and the cells can be collected after testing, to carry out long-term studies. This might enable researchers to gain access to the novel insights pertaining to causes, impacts and progress of injuries due to a trauma.
Help is available
Doctors are yet to develop an evidence-based disease altering therapy for the treatment of Alzheimer’s, which is identified as the most common form of dementia. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), by 2050, an estimated 14 million people are suspected to be affected by this disease.
Stressing on the prevalence of the disease that affects the elderly, Matthew Baumgart, senior director, public policy, Alzheimer’s Association, said, “Alzheimer’s is having a rapidly growing impact on American society. Alzheimer’s death rates have been rising steadily over the past 15 years — increasing 40 percent since 2000 when the new data are included.”
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