A migraine is a condition that is characterized by severe headaches, and nausea. Migraines affect 12–28% of people at some point in their lives. It is about 3 times more common in women than in men. Severe episodes can last as long as three days. This causes the condition to have a very disruptive effect on the lives of sufferers. During an attack, the person is unable to carry out any of the activities of daily life. Quality of life measures have been found to be worse for migraine sufferers than for people with asthma1.
A migraine attack can be regarded as a tipping point in the brain: activity in the brain spins out of control, causing a cortical spreading depression (CSD). A CSD is characterized by a self-propagating wave of cellular depolarization in the brain2.
The spinoza-migraine project
In 2009, three professors won the prestigious NWO Spinoza price and decided to team-up in a collaborative project to study the underlying mechanisms of a migraine. Michel Ferrari, is a professor of Neurology at the Leiden University Medical Center. His group focuses at migraine research and is known for the localization of a migraine gene. Marten Scheffer leads the Aquatic Ecology and Water Quality Management group at Wageningen University. He is interested in unraveling the mechanisms that determine the stability and resilience of complex systems. The tipping point mechanism of a migraine attack is an example of such a complex system. Albert van den Berg is head of the BIOS Lab on a Chip group at the University of Twente, which aims at the research and development of Lab-on-a-Chip (LOC) systems. Within this project, BIOS has the task to develop new measurement tools to study migraine attacks in the brain. One of these tools that we want to design, is a miniaturized dialysis probe to measure various markers directly from the brain of mice that have the migraine gene.
Matter size does matter!
This figure indicates the size of a mouse brain, compared to the size of e.g. the human brain. Commercially available dialysis probes have a typical diameter of 0.3mm. The brain of a mouse has a diameter of around 5mm. Insertion of these commercial probes causes a lot of damage, possibly triggering migraine attacks even before the measurement is started. Therefore, smaller dialysis probes are required for this project. Miniaturization also put demands on the interface with the outside world like fluidic connections, transport of analyte, and detection limits of various measurement equipment.
please get in contact if you are interested and, for instance, would like to do your master or bachelor assignment within this project.
1.UK Office for National Statistics
2.H. Porooshani, A.H. Porooshani and L. Gannon, Neuro-Ophthalmology, 2002, Vol. 28, No. 2, pp. 101–105