Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Deflecting damage: Flexible electronics aid brain injury research

10.04.2007
Flexible electronic membranes may overcome a longstanding dilemma faced by brain researchers: How to replicate injuries in the lab without destroying the electrodes that monitor how brain cells respond to physical trauma.

Developed by a team of engineers at Princeton University, Columbia University and the University of Cambridge, the membranes feature microelectrodes that are able to withstand the sudden stretching that is used to simulate severe head trauma. The systems could allow far more nuanced studies of brain injury than previously possible and may lead to better treatments in the minutes and hours immediately following the injury. The work also has implications for other areas of medicine, including next-generation prosthetics, as well as myriad industry and military applications.

“This is an immediate application of the electronics of the future,” said Sigurd Wagner, a Princeton professor of electrical engineering. Wagner and former Princeton postdoctoral researcher Stephanie Lacour are part of a National Institutes of Health-funded project to develop flexible arrays of microelectrodes for brain research. Led by Barclay Morrison III, an assistant biomedical engineering professor at Columbia, members of the team will present their work at the April 9-13 conference of the Materials Research Society in San Francisco.

Existing techniques to study traumatic brain injury have been limited because it is almost impossible to insert an electrode into a cell to obtain a recording, remove the probe, injure the cell, and then reinsert the probe into the same cell, Morrison said. Because of this limitation, researchers rely on other surrogate markers of injury, such as cell death.

“In terms of traumatic brain injury, there can be a lot of functional damage to the brain in other ways than just killing a cell,” Morrison said. “Neurons can still be alive, but not properly firing,” which leads to problems ranging from comas to epilepsy.

These improperly functioning neurons can now be assessed by the electrodes in the stretchable membranes. After brain cells have been placed on the flexible surface and allowed to grow, the researchers measure their normal activity. The membrane is then suddenly stretched and returned to its original form. Having withstood the shock, the electrodes embedded in the membrane continue to monitor the cellular activity, providing a before and after picture of traumatic brain injury.

Future work will continue to refine these measurements and also attempt to obtain readings from cells during the injury events themselves, Morrison said. The flexible electrodes also can be used to provide electrical input to brain tissue and may one day be used to induce learning in brain cells damaged by trauma. This technology also has promising applications for the engineering of nervous, muscular and skeletal tissue. For instance, Morrison said, the electrodes could potentially be used to train heart tissue grown in the lab to contract appropriately when stimulated.

The new membranes build upon work done by Lacour during her time at Princeton in Wagner’s lab. Lacour now is managing research in flexible electronics for neuroscience at the University of Cambridge in England. She has been recognized by Technology Review magazine, which named her to its 2006 list of 35 leading innovators under age 35.

Together, the engineers created the first working stretchable circuits by linking tiny pieces of traditional semiconductors mounted on a rubbery membrane with thin pieces of gold. Even when stretched, the circuits maintained their ability to conduct electricity.

Research on the flexible membranes also is likely to contribute to the longstanding challenge of connecting electronic devices to the human nervous system, Wagner said. Prosthetic devices, for example, could be coated with electronic “skin” that senses touch and temperature and sends that information back to the brain like any natural human limb.

“A basic problem with the interface between electronics and living tissue is that electronics are hard and tissues are soft,” he said, noting that nerve cells quickly become irritated when in contact with the hard electrodes of today. The hope is that the devices of the future will flex with living tissue, maintaining a connection without damaging the human cells.

Hilary Parker | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.princeton.edu

More articles from Medical Engineering:

nachricht New insight into the brain’s hidden depths: Jena scientists develop minimally-invasive endoscope
27.11.2018 | Leibniz-Institut für Photonische Technologien e. V.

nachricht New China and US studies back use of pulse oximeters for assessing blood pressure
21.11.2018 | University of British Columbia

All articles from Medical Engineering >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Topological material switched off and on for the first time

Key advance for future topological transistors

Over the last decade, there has been much excitement about the discovery, recognised by the Nobel Prize in Physics only two years ago, that there are two types...

Im Focus: Researchers develop method to transfer entire 2D circuits to any smooth surface

What if a sensor sensing a thing could be part of the thing itself? Rice University engineers believe they have a two-dimensional solution to do just that.

Rice engineers led by materials scientists Pulickel Ajayan and Jun Lou have developed a method to make atom-flat sensors that seamlessly integrate with devices...

Im Focus: Three components on one chip

Scientists at the University of Stuttgart and the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) succeed in important further development on the way to quantum Computers.

Quantum computers one day should be able to solve certain computing problems much faster than a classical computer. One of the most promising approaches is...

Im Focus: Substitute for rare earth metal oxides

New Project SNAPSTER: Novel luminescent materials by encapsulating phosphorescent metal clusters with organic liquid crystals

Nowadays energy conversion in lighting and optoelectronic devices requires the use of rare earth oxides.

Im Focus: A bit of a stretch... material that thickens as it's pulled

Scientists have discovered the first synthetic material that becomes thicker - at the molecular level - as it is stretched.

Researchers led by Dr Devesh Mistry from the University of Leeds discovered a new non-porous material that has unique and inherent "auxetic" stretching...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

New Plastics Economy Investor Forum - Meeting Point for Innovations

10.12.2018 | Event News

EGU 2019 meeting: Media registration now open

06.12.2018 | Event News

Expert Panel on the Future of HPC in Engineering

03.12.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Electronic evidence of non-Fermi liquid behaviors in an iron-based superconductor

11.12.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

Topological material switched off and on for the first time

11.12.2018 | Materials Sciences

NIST's antenna evaluation method could help boost 5G network capacity and cut costs

11.12.2018 | Information Technology

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>