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Scientists developed a new brain probe to measure effects of drugs

Posted July 29, 2016

Taking any kind of medication is virtually inevitable at some point in our lives. However, many of these drugs have side effects that are not well researched and may be noticeable only a long time after the course. Now scientists from the University of Adelaide have developed a new optical-fibre based probe to examine the effects of drug use.

MDMA, or ecstasy, will be the first drug scientists research using the new brain probe. Image credit: Willy Turner via Wikimedia, Public Domain

MDMA, or ecstasy, will be the first drug scientists research using the new brain probe. Image credit: Willy Turner via Wikimedia, Public Domain

Essentially this probe measures localized temperature changes deep inside the brain. It can be used to analyse biochemical pathways in order to better the understanding of complex structures of the brain. Furthermore, it can be used to research drug impact on the brain at a cellular and even intra-cellular level. Developing such probe was not an easy task for scientists, because it must be minimally invasive and as accurate as possible.

Lead author of the study, Stefan Musolino, said: “Using this incredibly thin glass fibre we can track the changes in temperature that we see in the brain, allowing us to better understand what’s happening across the neuronal and inflammatory pathways. What our probe provides, is an entirely new method for getting relevant biological measurements out of the brain, in this case rats brains, for further study and analysis”.

Scientists say that this probe is unique in its structure. Its tip includes a modified tellurite glass, which makes the probe extremely sensitive to temperature changes. It allows scientists measuring the localised brain temperature to a level of plus or minus 0.1 degrees Celsius. Overheating in the brain can lead to hospitalization or even death, which is why scientists developed this probe. Therefore, the team of researchers have already planned further steps.

Scientists now will set out researching correlation between ecstasy (MDMA) consumption and overheating in the brain. Understanding the toxicity of this drug would allow saving more lives of people who come to hospitals with the condition called hyperthermia. The new probe can also be used for testing new therapies as well, or researching the possible toxicity of medications while they are being developed.

Researchers also have an ambition of developing a multi-functional probe, which would measure other important factors as well as temperature change. However, even this achievement is quite significant, because it created a tool, which will benefit many brain researches in the near future.


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