- 1. Small generator creates regular bursts of electricity
- 2. The bursts travel up a cable to the brain
- 3. Thin electrodes deliver the stimulation
The brain is the most complex organ in the body. When things go wrong, from dementia to depression or a stroke, the consequences can be debilitating.
However, stimulating small areas with electrical impulses can help patients. Thousands of people with incurable Parkinson's disease have been relieved of tremor, rigidity and slow movement in this way. A £30,000 ($48,000; 36,000 euros) operation to place electrodes deep inside the brain has enabled some wheelchair users to walk.
Other research, on rats, is focused on trying to replace damaged parts of the brain with microchips.
Failure to control sugar levels in the blood has deadly consequences and it's a challenge faced by hundred of thousands of people with Type 1 diabetes. Their pancreases cannot produce insulin, the hormone vital for sugar control.
Trials at Cambridge University in pregnant women with the condition have suggested that an artificial pancreas can help control sugar levels during pregnancy. This could save the mothers' life and improve the health of the baby.
The artificial pancreas uses sensors to constantly monitor the level of sugar in the blood. This information is fed to a computer program to work out the recommended insulin dose which is then injected into the bloodstream by a pump.