CANDO (Controlling Abnormal Network Dynamics using Optogenetics) is a world-class, multi-site, cross-disciplinary project to develop a cortical implant for optogenetic neural control. The goal is to create a first-in-man trial of the device in patients with focal epilepsy. This 7 year, £10M Innovative Engineering for Health Award, funded by the Wellcome Trust and EPSRC involves a team of over 30 neuroscientists, engineers and clinicians based at Newcastle University, Imperial College, University College, London, and Newcastle Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust. Andrew is developing new artworks for Illuminating the Self, in concurrent exhibitions in Newcastle at
Hatton Gallery (18 January - 9 May 2020) and
Vane Gallery (17 January - 29 February 2020).
Within the brain, nerve cells connect together to generate rhythmic activity visible as brain waves on an EEG. In many neurological diseases, this network is disrupted, producing abnormal patterns of activity. In epilepsy, abnormal activity can be localised to a small ‘focus’, but this can spread across the whole brain as a seizure. Epilepsy affects 600,000 people in the UK alone and uncontrolled seizures have a devastating effect on patients’ quality of life. Most cases respond to drugs, but if these are ineffective it may be necessary to surgically remove the ‘focus’. However, surgery is not suitable in all patients and can damage cognitive function.
This project, led by Dr. Andrew Jackson and Professor Anthony O’Neill from Newcastle University, proposes an alternative based on a small implant that continuously records the abnormal activity and provides precisely timed stimulation to prevent it ever developing into a seizure. This requires that some cells within the focus are genetically altered using a safe virus to become sensitive to light. The implant will monitor their activity and provide pulses of light from tiny LEDs to prevent the build of abnormal activity.
Illuminating the Self. CANDO is delighted that Wellcome Trust awarded us further funding to expand public engagement around the project. The grant is split into three components, a large visual art exhibition, a theatre production and a VR aspect to explore and engage with patients and the public about epilepsy and optogenetics amongst others. CANDO is collaborating with renowned international artists Susan Aldworth and Andrew Carnie for concurrent exhibitions which will run at the start of 2020 at the Hatton Gallery and Vane Gallery in Newcastle upon Tyne.