A group of researchers at the University of California, Riverside have designed a unique transparent skull implant that will allow for new treatment options for patients with certain brain conditions, including traumatic brain injury. The implant will allow for easier access to the brain, and will replace a small segment of the skull. According to BBC News, the implant will also allow specialists to fire lasers into the brain to treat neurological conditions.
The implant is composed of transparent yttria-stabilized zirconia (YSZ), the same ceramic material found in hip implants and dental crowns. The material is well-received in other parts of the body, so its application in the skull can be permanent, according to Medical XPress. Additionally, doctors will not have to perform repeated craniectomies to treat brain injuries. A craniectomy requires surgeons to remove parts of the skull in order to gain access to the brain.
With the new implant, doctors will be able to aim laser-based treatments at the brain, which have shown much promise in treating brain conditions. Traditionally, the need to assess brain size through a craniectomy has slowed down the progress of laser-based treatments. In a press release, one of the researchers says “this is a crucial first step towards an innovative new concept that would provide a clinically-viable means for optically accessing the brain, on-demand, over large areas, and on a chronically-recurring basis, without need for repeated craniectomies.”
The implants aren’t the first transparent skull implants to be created, but they are the first that can be possibly used in humans due to the toughness of YSZ. The research team is comprised of 10 people from UC Riverside’s Bourn College of Engineering and School of Medicine. The team’s findings may be found in a paper entitled “Transparent Nanocrystalline Yttria-Stabilized-Zirconia Calvarium Prosthesis,” which appears online in the journal Nanomedicine: Nanotechnology, Biology and Medicine.