Tiny and precise – MICA could revolutionize access and delivery of therapeutics to the brain
Advances in brain science are driving development of a new generation of drugs, cell and gene therapies and implantable devices to treat a variety of neurological disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, epilepsy, cancer and others. Many require direct access to the brain.
Wyss Center scientists and engineers, in collaboration with research and clinical partners, are developing MICA – a Minimally invasive IntraCranial Access system designed to automatically access the brain through the skull while providing realtime monitoring of blood vessels. The MICA surgical system is a versatile tool designed for a range of neurosurgeries.
In addition to the surgical system, the team is developing custom administration kits, designed to deliver controlled and reliable dosage to precise locations within the brain, to realize the full potential of novel therapeutics.
There is high demand for a method to deliver therapies to the brain but no standard solution
Many therapeutics to treat brain diseases, including neurodegenerative diseases, are being developed for intracranial delivery. Current approaches often involve accessing the brain via a large burr hole and delivery through a system with little control over the exact location or dosage.
Delivering drugs to the brain is notoriously difficult due to the blood brain barrier - a dense layer of glial cells that surrounds blood vessels in the brain. The blood brain barrier keeps the nervous system safe from harm by preventing toxins and pathogens from entering the brain from the blood but also constitutes a major obstacle to effective delivery of drugs.
An additional challenge to brain access is the prevalence of hemorrhage which is often not detected until post-operative imaging and can lead to many serious clinical risks, including stroke.
Cutting edge, tailored technologies, that include real time monitoring of blood vessels, are needed to safely access and deliver controlled dosage to precise locations within the brain.
MICA - A versatile automated drilling system to access any location within the skull and for the customized delivery of therapeutics
The device creates a tiny hole in the skull of only 500 µm in diameter – sixteen times smaller than best in class 2 mm burr holes created with existing surgical drills. The minimally invasive approach is anticipated to reduce scarring and improve post-operative recovery time.
Using innovative pressure and energy sensing technology, MICA automatically stops drilling after fully penetrating the skull but before the dura mater - the brain’s protective membrane -, allowing safe, precise and efficient access to the brain.
MICA also integrates optical technology for AI-based tissue-type detection which identifies tissue layers and blood vessels in real-time throughout the entire procedure. This intelligent feature reduces the risk of hemorrhage and enables a high degree of confidence in the precise location within the brain.
The novel administration kit features a catheter compatible with the automated surgical tool, enabling real-time tissue detection until the administration site is reached, then delivery of a controlled, reliable, and consistent dose in a predefined location with minimal backflow.
Matthew Lapinski, MSE, MECHANICAL ENGINEERING MANAGER“This precise new intelligent surgical tool has the potential to redefine the boundaries of what is currently possible in neurosurgery, deliver the latest therapies, and bring clinical benefits to patients.”
The system is currently in preclinical testing and the team is exploring strategic partnerships for clinical development and commercialization.
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Wyss Center joins Swiss life sciences cluster BioAlps
The Wyss Center for Bio and Neuroengineering, a non-profit organization dedicated to accelerating discoveries in neuroscience to improve patient lives, has joined BioAlps, the life sciences cluster for Western Switzerland.Collaboration