You know all about Botox, that go-to cosmetic treatment for the middle aged. But Botulinum neurotoxin, it turns out, is far more than a wrinkle eraser.
It has been used to prevent migraine headaches, to treat overactive bladder and for certain eye disorders, including uncontrolled blinking. And it has long been used to treat stroke survivors, many of whom suffer from muscle spasms as a result of the brain mistakenly sending high-frequency signals through the nerves to the muscles.
Pinpointing the best injection site—a small gap at the neuromuscular junction—has remained elusive, as results vary from patient to patient and even from one treatment to the next.
Now, a biomedical engineer from the University of Houston is mapping the best way to deliver a dose of Botox to reduce that muscle spasticity.
“Sometimes, even for the same patient with the same physician and same injection protocol—one time it works well, the next time it doesn’t,” said Yingchun Zhang, assistant professor of biomedical engineering, who has a grant from the National Institutes of Health to calculate the best spot for injection.
His non-invasive approach uses high-density electrodes placed on the surface of the skin, allowing him to track the electrical discharge produced when muscles contract.
That takes him to the prime target.
Working with TIRR Memorial Hermann, Zhang will test his approach against the standard method. If it works, the treatment will require a lower dose of the neurotoxin—which should translate into lower cost—and reduce side effects.