AsianScientist (Sep. 11, 2019) – Researchers in South Korea have developed a soft neural implant that can be wirelessly controlled using a smartphone to release drugs and produce light signals in the brain. They reported their findings in the journal Nature Biomedical Engineering.
Conventional methods used by neuroscientists to monitor and modify neural circuits typically comprise devices with rigid metal tubes and optical fibers. Apart from limiting the subject’s movement due to bulky equipment, the relatively rigid structure of such implants causes lesions in soft brain tissue over time, making long-term implantation unfeasible.
In the present study, a team of scientists led by Professor Jeong Jae-Woong at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology, South Korea, have developed a wireless device that can release drugs and generate light pulses in the brain to potentially diagnose and treat brain diseases such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s, as well as addiction, depression and pain.
To achieve chronic wireless drug delivery, the scientists had to solve the critical challenges of drug exhaustion and evaporation. They overcame the problem with Lego-like replaceable drug cartridges and low-energy Bluetooth technology to target specific neurons of interest over prolonged periods of time.
These ‘plug-n-play’ drug cartridges were assembled into a brain implant for mice. The implant consisted of a soft and ultrathin probe containing microfluidic channels and tiny light-emitting diodes. The researchers were able to deliver drugs and light pulses to the brains of mice via a simple user interface on a smartphone, without needing to be physically present at the laboratory. They propose that their wireless neural device can be used to easily set up fully automated behavioral studies in animals.
“This novel device is the fruit of advanced electronics design and powerful micro and nanoscale engineering,” Jeong said. “We are interested in further developing this technology to make a brain implant for clinical applications.”
The article can be found at: Qazi et al. (2019) Wireless Optofluidic Brain Probes for Chronic Neuropharmacology and Photostimulation.
Source: Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology.
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