Sheffield doctor creates a helmet for brain tumour patients to boost drug delivery during treatment

A magnetic helmet, created by a Sheffield doctor, which could boost drug delivery to the brain is among the ideas being shortlisted for fast-track business development.

Tuesday, 25th June 2019, 10:55 am
Updated Tuesday, 2nd July 2019, 12:40 pm
Dr Munitta Muthana, a senior lecturer at the University of Sheffield’s Department of Oncology and Metabolism,

The helmet is being created by a team led by Dr Munitta Muthana from the University of Sheffield.

It is one of the ideas which has been given support from a new charity partnership aimed at improving outcomes for brain tumour patients.

Dr David Jenkinson, Chief Scientific Officer for The Brain Tumour Charity.

The Brain Tumour Charity is the first UK charity to team up with The US Center for Advancing Innovation or CAI, called ‘Tinder for start-ups’, to encourage inventors and researchers from around the world to submit their ideas for commercial development by entrepreneurs.

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The charity has pledged $600,000, (£450,000), towards The Brain Race, a virtual ‘Dragons’ Den’ style process in which individuals and teams will be matched with potential investors to receive expert guidance in all aspects of bringing a product to market or transforming an idea into reality.

Dr Muthana said: “I am really excited about this project, because no matter what kind of drugs you have to treat brain tumours, you have to find a way to get them to the tumour across the blood-brain barrier.”

Dr Muthana, a senior lecturer at the University of Sheffield’s Department of Oncology and Metabolism, has shown previously that anti-cancer drugs attached to iron nanoparticles can be successfully ‘steered’ to the site of a tumour using an external magnetic force.

Her published studies have involved either a small magnet placed on the skin above the site of a tumour or an MRI machine in which magnetic force can be focused on a particular area.

It was, however, while she was undergoing an MRI scan herself for a knee injury in 2017, Dr Muthana wondered whether there might be a what she calls a ‘middle ground’, a way of creating a magnetic field around the brain that would be less uncomfortable and daunting for patients, and less expensive, than an MRI scan.

She and her team have since used a 3D printer to create models of both a human head and a brain tumour to help them establish accurately the strength of magnetic force required to draw these iron nanoparticles towards tumours deep within the brain.

They are now designing a helmet to house the magnet for patients to wear during treatment.

Dr David Jenkinson, Chief Scientific Officer for The Brain Tumour Charity, said: “We’re delighted to have agreed to this partnership, which is the first of its kind between The Center for Advancing Innovation and a UK-based charity.

“We’ve taken this pioneering step because we know how important it is to speed up progress towards more effective treatments for brain tumours, which devastate so many lives worldwide every day.”

Visit www.thebraintumourcharity.org for details.