Medical Research

A mouse runs on a "rotarod" wearing the implantable device. The experiment is designed to test the mouse's motor skills.
Washington University | University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign | Cell Press

A federal initiative to find cures for brain disorders is granting $3.8 million to Washington University researchers and their collaborators.

The group is studying how neurons respond to light by implanting fiber-optic threads the width of a human hair into the brains of lab mice.

“We’re able to get animals to do particular behaviors while this light is dialing up or dialing down particular activities,” said Dr. Michael Bruchas, a Washington University neuroscientist. “We can actually affect how they approach one another, how they interact.”

U.S. Food and Drug Administration

A St. Louis neurosurgeon is helping to pioneer a new treatment for severe obsessive compulsive disorder that involves implanting a device sometimes called a “brain pacemaker.”  

At first, deep brain stimulation sounds like something out of an Isaac Asimov novel. Through a hole in the skull the size of a dime, surgeons place electrodes in a patient’s brain. Wires under the skin connect the electrodes to a device similar to a cardiac pacemaker, which is implanted under the patient’s clavicle.

A model of the heart of a patient with complex congenital heart disease, created at St. Louis University.
Dr. Wilson King

The development of 3-D printers, which use computer designs to create solid objects, are revolutionizing the way engineers make prototypes, models and even some consumer goods. The practical applications for the health-care industry are huge — and they’re starting to happen in St. Louis.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: Samuel Achilefu, professor of radiology at Washington University Optical Radiology Laboratory, is excited about how light, specifically near infrared light, can be used to identify cancers. To demonstrate how infrared light can help surgeons to see and remove tumors, he shows how a laser pointer penetrates deep into human tissue causing it to glow red. Ordinary white light tends to bounce back.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: In an era of increasingly high-tech medical care, some potentially deadly health problems turn out to respond best to low-tech remedies.

Case in point is the ongoing federal effort to encourage hospitals and other providers to protect patients from potentially deadly infections from antibiotic-resistant bacteria.