Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

New ’fuzzy’ polymers could improve the performance of electronic brain implants

28.06.2002


A newly developed polymer surface could improve the interface between electronic implants and living tissue, helping to advance a technology that may one day enable the blind to see and the paralyzed to walk. The findings were described today at the 34th Central Regional Meeting of the American Chemical Society, the world’s largest scientific society. The meeting is being held at Eastern Michigan University in Ypsilanti.



David C. Martin, Director of the Macromolecular Science and Engineering Center at the University of Michigan, presented research on polymers that can be processed into a "fuzzy" form to enhance the compatibility of electronic implants with brain tissue.

Electrodes implanted in the brain can pick up electrical signals sent back and forth by nerve cells. The tiny devices — about a millimeter long — are coated with growth factors that encourage brain tissue to grow into them. The intent is for each probe to make contact with a series of neurons, allowing it to receive signals it can interpret and use to activate an external device. The technique has been called a spinal cord bypass. It could help patients with brain disorders and paralysis operate artificial limbs or control a computer mouse by simply thinking about the task.


There is, however, still a long way to go before humans will be effortlessly controlling external devices with their mind. "Our interest is in finding materials and processing schemes that can help the electrodes function better for long periods of time," Martin said.

Initial experiments in guinea pigs showed that these electrodes do not make efficient contact with the brain. "The implanted electrodes are solid, hard and smooth," Martin said, "whereas the brain is soft, wet and alive." The differences can cause the electrodes to lose contact with the brain, blocking the signal.

Martin and his team have designed rough-surfaced, fuzzy polymers with various grooves and depressions designed to mesh better with neurons. "The scheme is to have these electrodes make a connection with the neurons quickly, before the other cells get in and wall them off," Martin said.

To further encourage connection, Martin and his team have incorporated biological molecules in the polymer coating to selectively attract target neurons. In guinea pigs, the researchers found that uncoated electrodes came out clean after remaining in the brain for a period of time, while coated electrodes were covered with neural tissue. This indicates that the neurons are hanging on to the biologically doped coating, Martin said.

The team also found that the fuzzy surface of the polymer coating, in addition to improving contact with brain tissue, could be used to fine-tune its ability to conduct electrical signals.

Martin’s research is being conducted in collaboration with the University of Michigan Center for Neural Communications Technology, the Kresge Hearing Research Institute, and the Keck Center for Tissue Engineering at the University of Utah. Xinyan "Tracy" Cui, Ph.D., who is now working at Unilever, did much of the work that was discussed in the presentation.

Sharon Worthy | EurekAlert!

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht X-ray scattering shines light on protein folding
10.07.2020 | The Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST)

nachricht Surprisingly many peculiar long introns found in brain genes
10.07.2020 | Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: The spin state story: Observation of the quantum spin liquid state in novel material

New insight into the spin behavior in an exotic state of matter puts us closer to next-generation spintronic devices

Aside from the deep understanding of the natural world that quantum physics theory offers, scientists worldwide are working tirelessly to bring forth a...

Im Focus: Excitation of robust materials

Kiel physics team observed extremely fast electronic changes in real time in a special material class

In physics, they are currently the subject of intensive research; in electronics, they could enable completely new functions. So-called topological materials...

Im Focus: Electrons in the fast lane

Solar cells based on perovskite compounds could soon make electricity generation from sunlight even more efficient and cheaper. The laboratory efficiency of these perovskite solar cells already exceeds that of the well-known silicon solar cells. An international team led by Stefan Weber from the Max Planck Institute for Polymer Research (MPI-P) in Mainz has found microscopic structures in perovskite crystals that can guide the charge transport in the solar cell. Clever alignment of these "electron highways" could make perovskite solar cells even more powerful.

Solar cells convert sunlight into electricity. During this process, the electrons of the material inside the cell absorb the energy of the light....

Im Focus: The lightest electromagnetic shielding material in the world

Empa researchers have succeeded in applying aerogels to microelectronics: Aerogels based on cellulose nanofibers can effectively shield electromagnetic radiation over a wide frequency range – and they are unrivalled in terms of weight.

Electric motors and electronic devices generate electromagnetic fields that sometimes have to be shielded in order not to affect neighboring electronic...

Im Focus: Gentle wall contact – the right scenario for a fusion power plant

Quasi-continuous power exhaust developed as a wall-friendly method on ASDEX Upgrade

A promising operating mode for the plasma of a future power plant has been developed at the ASDEX Upgrade fusion device at Max Planck Institute for Plasma...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Contact Tracing Apps against COVID-19: German National Academy Leopoldina hosts international virtual panel discussion

07.07.2020 | Event News

International conference QuApps shows status quo of quantum technology

02.07.2020 | Event News

Dresden Nexus Conference 2020: Same Time, Virtual Format, Registration Opened

19.05.2020 | Event News

 
Latest News

X-ray scattering shines light on protein folding

10.07.2020 | Life Sciences

Looking at linkers helps to join the dots

10.07.2020 | Materials Sciences

Surprisingly many peculiar long introns found in brain genes

10.07.2020 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>