This study opens the way to monitor neurotransmitter levels and changes in those levels over a long period of time. This would be a definitive way to track the effect of amino acid therapy, and possibly even give information about proper dosing levels. Of course, the down side is that you’ve got to have a sensor implanted in your brain! Given that this is already happening with some patients, it seems that it would be easy to add these sensors at the same time in order to track response.

Many disorders, including Parkinson’s disease, depression, and schizophrenia, are linked to dopamine deficiencies. Traditional systems for measuring dopamine can only be used reliably for about a day because they produce scar tissue that interferes with the electrodes’ ability to interact with dopamine. MIT neuroscientists have now devised a way to measure dopamine in the brain for more than a year.

The MIT team found that their tiny sensors were nearly invisible to the immune system, even over extended periods of time. If developed for use in humans, these sensors could be useful for monitoring Parkinson’s patients who receive deep brain stimulation, the researchers say.

The researchers are now looking into adapting the sensors to measure other neurotransmitters in the brain which can also be disrupted in Parkinson’s and other diseases.

Helen N. Schwerdt, Elizabeth Zhang, Min Jung Kim, Tomoko Yoshida, Lauren Stanwicks, Satoko Amemori, Huseyin E. Dagdeviren, Robert Langer, Michael J. Cima, Ann M. Graybiel. Cellular-scale probes enable stable chronic subsecond monitoring of dopamine neurochemicals in a rodent model. Communications Biology, 2018; 1 (1) DOI: 10.1038/s42003-018-0147-y