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Biomaterial Strategies at the Neural Electronics-Tissue Interface

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Microelectronic devices placed in the nervous system present tremendous potentials for mapping neural circuits and treating neurological disorders. Currently, the performance of these devices is sub-optimum due to electrode material limitations and undesired host tissue responses. Quantitative histology and 2-photon imaging have revealed neuronal damage and degeneration, inflammatory gliosis, blood brain barrier leakage and oxidative stress at the site of implants which may compromise the intended recording/stimulation/neurochemical sensing function. We use several biomaterial strategies to minimize these responses in order to achieve seamless and stable device-tissue interface. Conducting polymer based nanocomposites have been investigated as electrode coatings and facilitate the signal transduction/charge transfer between the ionically conductive tissue and the electrical device. Nanostructuring is employed to improve the adhesion, stability and charge injection and drug delivery capability of the conducting polymers to meet the material challenges at the neural interface. As we continue to improve our understanding of the implant induced tissue response, bioactive approaches are being developed to modulate the cellular responses for seamless integration. Surface modification with bioactive molecules or anti-fouling materials have been found to significantly improve neuronal health and inhibit the inflammatory tissue response around the implants. Alternatively, therapeutics that control inflammation, neurodegeneration and oxidative stress can be delivered systemically or locally. These bioactive approaches demonstrated significant benefit in neural recording quality and longevity. The ultimate solution to a seamless device/tissue interface may be a combinatorial approach that takes advantage of multiple biomimetic strategies discussed above and beyond.

This talk is part of the Electrical Engineering series.

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