Delivering drugs into a human brain via remote control sounds like something out of a science fiction film, but maybe the concept isn’t as far-fetched as it initially might seem.

Researchers recently demonstrated this kind of technology in mice. The goal is to eventually treat pain, depression, epilepsy and other neurological disorders in human by targeting therapies to specific brain circuits.

The wireless device is the width of a human hair, small enough to implant in the brain. To deliver drugs, one would activate the instrument by remote control.

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“In the future, it should be possible to manufacture therapeutic drugs that could be activated with light,” said co-principal investigator Michael R. Bruchas, PhD, associate professor of anesthesiology and neurobiology at Washington University, in a statement. “With one of these tiny devices implanted, we could theoretically deliver a drug to a specific brain region and activate that drug with light as needed. This approach potentially could deliver therapies that are much more targeted but have fewer side effects.”

Published in Cell, the report reviews previous attempts to deliver drugs to experimental animals. In all of these instances, however, animals needed to be tethered to pumps and tubes, restricting their movement.

“Now, we literally can deliver drug therapy with the press of a button,” said Jordan G. McCall, PhD, a graduate student in the Bruchas lab in a statement. “We’ve designed it to exploit infrared technology, similar to that used in a TV remote. If we want to influence an animal’s behavior with light or with a particular drug, we can simply point the remote at the animal and press a button.”


1. Jeong J, et al. Cell. 2015; doi: