'Brain window' implant devised
A "window to the brain" implant which would allow doctors to see through the skull and possibly treat patients has been devised by US researchers.
It uses a see-through version of the same material used for hip implants.
The team at University of California, Riverside, say it could allow lasers to be fired into the brain to treat neurological disorders.
The implant was reported in the journal Nanomedicine: Nanotechnology, Biology and Medicine.
The researchers say emerging laser-treatments in stroke and cancer care and brain imaging require access to the brain.
However, they are limited as a part of the skull needs to be removed and replaced each time a treatment is performed.
Instead the team of scientists have devised a transparent implant that would replace a small section of the skull.
They have converted a material - yttria-stabilized zirconia that is used in some ceramic hip implants and dental crowns - to make it transparent.
They argue the material would be safe to implant, but would also provide a window onto the brain.
Professor of mechanical engineering, Guillermo Aguilar, said: "This is a case of a science fiction sounding idea becoming science fact, with strong potential for positive impact on patients.
"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."
Prof John Duncan, a brain expert a University College London, said: "Access to the brain for minimally invasive surgery would be a major step forward.
"This research appears to provide a very encouraging step in this direction."