Neuromodulating Nanoparticle Patches From An Inkjet Printer

Scientists in South Korea have developed a printing process to pattern nanoparticles that heat up under light, which can be used to modulate the activity of neurons.

AsianScientist (Apr. 13, 2018) – A research group at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST), South Korea, has developed a method to print metal nanoparticles in specific patterns, which can be used to alter the activity of neurons. They published their findings in ACS Nano.

Neurological disorders such as epilepsy are caused by the hyperactivity of neurons. Researchers have thus sought methods to inhibit activity of specific neurons in the brain. However, the resolution of such technologies remains limited.

In the present study, a research group led by Professor Nam Yoonkey at KAIST integrated a precision inkjet printing technology with bio-functional nanoparticles. They applied a polyelectrolyte layer-by-layer coating method to printing substrates in a way that improved the pattern fidelity and achieved the uniform assembly of nanoparticles.

The electrostatic attraction between the printed nanoparticles and the coated printing substrate also enhanced the stability of the attached nanoparticles. Because the polyelectrolyte coating is biocompatible, biological experiments including cell culture are possible with this technology.

Using printed gold nanorod particles patterned at micrometer resolution over an area of several centimeters, the researchers showed that highly complex heat patterns can be precisely formed upon light illumination. The metal nanoparticles absorbed specific wavelengths of light to efficiently generate localized heat via the thermo-plasmonic effect.

The team also confirmed that the printed heat patterns can selectively and instantaneously inhibit the activities of cultured hippocampal neurons upon near-infrared light illumination. Because the printing process is applicable to thin and flexible substrates, the technology can be easily applied to implantable devices and wearable devices for the treatment of neurological disorders. By selectively applying the heat patterns to only the desired cellular areas, customized and personalized photothermal neuromodulation therapy can be applied to patients.

“The fact that any desired heat patterns can be simply ‘printed’ anywhere broadens the applicability of this technology in many engineering fields. In bioengineering, it can be applied to neural interfaces using light and heat to modulate physiological functions. It could also be used in anti-counterfeit applications,” said Nam.

The article can be found at: Kang et al. (2018) Inkjet-Printed Biofunctional Thermo-Plasmonic Interfaces for Patterned Neuromodulation.


Source: Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology; Photo: Pixabay.
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