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Cold could someday be used to treat epilepsy

​The Epicool project is investigating the use of optics to cool epileptogenic areas in the brains of epilepsy patients resistant to other treatments. A prototype implantable device is currently being developed and will be miniaturized before animal testing begins.

Published on 29 September 2023

It has been known since the 1930s that cold applied directly to the areas of the brain where epilepsy originates can stop seizures. Since then, the idea of cooling the epileptogenic zones has gained ground, but a major challenge remains,   how to dissipate heat in these deep and functionally critical areas of the brain.

The Epicool project is an initiative by Clinatec, a French biomedical research center. This center emerges from a collaborative effort among the CHU Grenoble Alpes, University of Grenoble Alpes, CEA, and the Clinatec Fund. The Epicool primary goal is to develop an implantable medical device designed to treat epilepsy that is resistant to conventional drug treatments. This approach centers on a new technology called 'focal cooling’. The first phase of the project involved adapting this technology to the target application, identifying the most appropriate critical components and developing a laboratory-scale cooling bench.

A new phase of preclinical studies is underway to evaluate this technology using animal models of epilepsy. The goal is to predict seizure onset and initiate preemptive treatment using cold to mitigate or even halt the seizures. This phase aims to validate the cold treatment within a closed-loop system, a critical step for any future clinical applications. In parallel, our teams are improving the cooling technology to address technical challenges, including cold production, heat dissipation, consumption estimates, power requirements, and miniaturization. These advancements will pave the way for the development of an implantable medical device.

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