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A version of the ceramic skull implant developed by a UC Riverside-led team of researchers. (Credit: David Baillot, UCSD Jacobs School of Engineering)

Getting sound waves through the skull and into the brain is no easy task. To address this problem, a team of researchers has developed a ceramic skull implant through which doctors can deliver ultrasound treatments on demand and on a recurring basis.

To help doctors deliver therapeutic sound waves into the brain, the team developed and tested a transparent, ceramic material that could be used to replace a portion of the cranium and that allows easy, targeted transmission of ultrasound waves into the brain. The material, which is a new variation of the ceramic material Yttria Stabilized Zirconia (YSZ), is nonporous, allowing nonfocalized, low-intensity ultrasound waves to pass through.

Ceramic materials show significant promise because they are biocompatible, extremely hard, and shatter resistant, making them ideal for implants. The team previously developed a YSZ cranial implant material for laser-based therapies. That implant is already in preclinical trials. The current material could be used to deliver both ultrasound and laser-based treatments.

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