Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Nerve-on-a-chip platform makes neuroprosthetics more effective

23.10.2018

Neuroprosthetics - implants containing multi-contact electrodes that can substitute certain nerve functionalities - have the potential to work wonders. They may be able to restore amputees' sense of touch, help the paralyzed walk again by stimulating their spinal cords and silence the nerve activity of people suffering from chronic pain.

Stimulating nerves at the right place and the right time is essential for implementing effective treatments, but still a challenge due to implants' inability to record neural activity precisely. "Our brain sends and receives millions of nerve impulses, but we typically implant only about a dozen electrodes in patients.


The 'nerve-on-a-chip' platform paves the way to using chips to improve neuroprosthetic designs.

Credit: © 2018 EPFL

This type of interface often doesn't have the resolution necessary to match the complex patterns of information exchange in a patient's nervous system," says Sandra Gribi, a PhD student at the Bertarelli Foundation Chair in Neuroprosthetic Technology.

Replicating - and improving - how neuroprosthetics work

Scientists at the lab run by Dr. Stéphanie Lacour, a professor at EPFL's School of Engineering, have developed a nerve-on-a-chip platform that can stimulate and record from explanted nerve fibers, just as an implanted neuroprosthetic would. Their platform contains microchannels embedded with electrodes and explanted nerve fibers faithfully replicate the architecture, maturity and functioning of in vivo tissue.

The scientists tested their platform on explanted nerve fibers from rats' spinal cords, trying out various strategies for stimulating and inhibiting neural activity. "In vitro tests are usually carried out on neuron cultures in dishes.

But these cultures don't replicate the diversity of neurons, like their different types and diameters, that you would find in vivo. Resulting nerve cells' properties are changed. What's more, the extracellular microelectrode arrays that some scientists use generally can't record all the activity of a single nerve cell in a culture," says Gribi.

The nerve-on-a-chip platform developed at EPFL can be manufactured in a clean room in two days and is able to rapidly record hundreds of nerve responses with a high signal-to-noise ratio. However, what really sets it apart is that it can record the activity of individual nerve cells. The research has just been published in Nature Communications.

Inhibiting the activity of specific neurons

The scientists used their platform to test a photothermic method for inhibiting neural activity. "Neural inhibition could be a way to treat chronic pain like the phantom limb pain that appears after an arm or leg has been amputated, or neuropathic pain," says Lacour.

The scientists deposited a photothermic semiconducting polymer, called P3HT:PCBM, on some of the chip's electrodes. "The polymer heats up when subject to light. Thanks to the sensitivity of our electrodes, we were able to measure a difference in activity between the various explanted nerve fibers. More specifically, the activity of the thinnest fibers was dominantly blocked," says Gribi. And it's precisely those thin fibers that are nociceptors - the sensory neurons that cause pain. The next step will be to use the polymer in an implant placed around a nerve to study the inhibiting effect in vivo.

Distinguishing between sensory and motor nerve fibers

The scientists also used their platform to improve the geometry and position of recording electrodes, in order to develop an implant that can regenerate peripheral nerves. By running the measured neural data through a robust algorithm, they will be able to calculate the speed and direction of nerve impulse propagation - and therefore determine whether a given impulse comes from a sensory or motor nerve. "That will enable engineers to develop bidirectional, selective implants allowing for more natural control of artificial limbs such as prosthetic hands," says Lacour.

###

Funding

This work is supported by the Swiss National Science Foundation, grant CR32I2- 149609SFN, and the Bertarelli Foundation.

Reference

"A microfabricated nerve-on-a-chip platform for rapid assessment of neural conduction in explanted peripheral nerve fibers." Sandra Gribi, Sophie Du Bois De Dunilac, Diego Ghezzi and Stéphanie P. Lacour.

Media Contact

Stéphanie Lacour
stephanie.lacour@epfl.ch
41-216-931-181

 @EPFL_en

http://www.epfl.ch/index.en.html 

Stéphanie Lacour | EurekAlert!
Further information:
https://actu.epfl.ch/news/nerve-on-a-chip-platform-makes-neuroprosthetics-mo/
http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41467-018-06895-7

More articles from Medical Engineering:

nachricht Artificial intelligence can speed up the detection of stroke
31.03.2020 | University of Turku

nachricht Thermopiles for non-contact temperature measurement at humans
31.03.2020 | CiS Forschungsinstitut für Mikrosensorik GmbH

All articles from Medical Engineering >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Harnessing the rain for hydrovoltaics

Drops of water falling on or sliding over surfaces may leave behind traces of electrical charge, causing the drops to charge themselves. Scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Polymer Research (MPI-P) in Mainz have now begun a detailed investigation into this phenomenon that accompanies us in every-day life. They developed a method to quantify the charge generation and additionally created a theoretical model to aid understanding. According to the scientists, the observed effect could be a source of generated power and an important building block for understanding frictional electricity.

Water drops sliding over non-conducting surfaces can be found everywhere in our lives: From the dripping of a coffee machine, to a rinse in the shower, to an...

Im Focus: A sensational discovery: Traces of rainforests in West Antarctica

90 million-year-old forest soil provides unexpected evidence for exceptionally warm climate near the South Pole in the Cretaceous

An international team of researchers led by geoscientists from the Alfred Wegener Institute, Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research (AWI) have now...

Im Focus: Blocking the Iron Transport Could Stop Tuberculosis

The bacteria that cause tuberculosis need iron to survive. Researchers at the University of Zurich have now solved the first detailed structure of the transport protein responsible for the iron supply. When the iron transport into the bacteria is inhibited, the pathogen can no longer grow. This opens novel ways to develop targeted tuberculosis drugs.

One of the most devastating pathogens that lives inside human cells is Mycobacterium tuberculosis, the bacillus that causes tuberculosis. According to the...

Im Focus: Physicist from Hannover Develops New Photon Source for Tap-proof Communication

An international team with the participation of Prof. Dr. Michael Kues from the Cluster of Excellence PhoenixD at Leibniz University Hannover has developed a new method for generating quantum-entangled photons in a spectral range of light that was previously inaccessible. The discovery can make the encryption of satellite-based communications much more secure in the future.

A 15-member research team from the UK, Germany and Japan has developed a new method for generating and detecting quantum-entangled photons at a wavelength of...

Im Focus: Junior scientists at the University of Rostock invent a funnel for light

Together with their colleagues from the University of Würzburg, physicists from the group of Professor Alexander Szameit at the University of Rostock have devised a “funnel” for photons. Their discovery was recently published in the renowned journal Science and holds great promise for novel ultra-sensitive detectors as well as innovative applications in telecommunications and information processing.

The quantum-optical properties of light and its interaction with matter has fascinated the Rostock professor Alexander Szameit since College.

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

13th AKL – International Laser Technology Congress: May 4–6, 2022 in Aachen – Laser Technology Live already this year!

02.04.2020 | Event News

“4th Hybrid Materials and Structures 2020” takes place over the internet

26.03.2020 | Event News

Most significant international Learning Analytics conference will take place – fully online

23.03.2020 | Event News

 
Latest News

Capturing 3D microstructures in real time

03.04.2020 | Materials Sciences

First SARS-CoV-2 genomes in Austria openly available

03.04.2020 | Life Sciences

Do urban fish exhibit impaired sleep? Light pollution suppresses melatonin production in European perch

03.04.2020 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>