A new European research project which aims to heal epilepsy by regenerating brain tissue and ‘training’ neurons is getting underway.
The five-year, €8m Hybrid Enhanced Regenerative Medicine Systems project – HERMES, brings together 12 partners from seven EU countries to heal brain disorders using transplants which combine biological and artificial components.
HERMES researchers will study temporal lobe epilepsy, the most common form of epilepsy, which can be resistant to current pharmacological therapies. Temporal lobe epilepsy affects areas of the brain that are involved in learning, memory and emotions, such as the hippocampus.
HERMES will aim to rebuild the part of the hippocampus damaged by this form of epilepsy. Researchers will generate hippocampal tissue in the laboratory and develop a neuromorphic neuroprosthesis – an electronic device that mimics the normal function of the brain’s neurons.
The two components – one biological and the other artificial – will be implanted in the damaged brain area in an animal model with the aim of rebuilding the damaged hippocampus. The neuromorphic neuroprosthesis will be equipped with artificial intelligence to guide the implanted tissue towards the correct integration within the brain.
The device will then serve as a “trainer” for the tissue recreated in the laboratory and will be discontinued upon complete regeneration and functional recovery of the brain area. The new paradigm introduced by HERMES is called enhanced regenerative medicine.