Hydrogel Scaffold Makes a Dwelling Electrode

A staff of researchers on the Harvard Wyss Institute have developed a smooth, hydrogel scaffold that may operate as a dwelling electrode for brain-computer interface functions. The researchers used electrically conductive supplies and created a porous and versatile scaffold utilizing a freeze-drying course of. They then seeded the scaffold with human neural progenitor cells (NPCs) and cultured the scaffolds for prolonged durations, prompting the cells to distinguish into quite a lot of neurons and astrocytes. The researchers hope that the ensuing ‘dwelling electrode’ might be helpful for brain-computer interfaces, as its smooth and versatile nature will assist it to evolve with smooth neural tissues and its mobile cargo will assist to boost its biocompatibility and potential efficacy.

The scaffold consists of a smooth hydrogel (grey) that incorporates carbon nanotubes (blue) and graphene flakes (pink) as conductive supplies to transmit electrical impulses all through the scaffold. Credit score: Wyss Institute at Harvard College

Mind-computer interfaces maintain huge promise in unlocking therapeutic outcomes that might have appeared like science fiction only a few brief years in the past. From controlling wheelchairs with the thoughts to restoring sight to the blind, the alternatives in enhancing affected person well-being are large. Nonetheless, the know-how nonetheless has a method to go and on a primary look, machines and the human physique are usually not a match made in heaven. The interfacing electrodes in such programs are usually made utilizing metallic and are inflexible, each of which don’t help the know-how in non-invasively interacting with delicate neural tissues.

When grown on a viscoelastic hydrogel scaffold, human neural progenitor cells differentiate into a number of cell sorts which are discovered within the human mind, together with oligodendrocytes (inexperienced) that produce myelin (white). Credit score: Wyss Institute at Harvard College

These researchers got down to create an electrode that’s not simply versatile, but additionally coated in dwelling neural cells, and relies on the idea that dwelling tissue is more likely to be essentially the most biocompatible materials to interface with different dwelling tissue. The researchers additionally conceived the cell-laden materials as delivering electrical impulses extra naturally by cell-cell contact.

“This conductive, hydrogel-based scaffold has nice potential,” mentioned Christina Tringides, a researcher concerned within the research. “Not solely can or not it’s used to review the formation of human neural networks in vitro, it may additionally allow the creation of implantable biohybrid BCIs that extra seamlessly combine with a affected person’s mind tissue, enhancing their efficiency and reducing threat of damage.”

To create their scaffolds, the researchers used an alginate hydrogel and added some carbon nano-materials for electrical conductivity earlier than a last freeze-drying step. The freeze drying course of creates ice-crystals within the materials that then chic throughout freeze-drying, leaving many pores into which cells can enter and reside. They seeded the scaffolds with neural progenitor cells, which then differentiated into extra mature neural cells throughout an prolonged tradition interval.

“The profitable differentiation of human NPCs into a number of sorts of mind cells inside our scaffolds is affirmation that the conductive hydrogel gives them the correct of setting wherein to develop in vitro,” mentioned Dave Mooney, one other researcher concerned within the research. “It was particularly thrilling to see myelination on the neurons’ axons, as that has been an ongoing problem to duplicate in dwelling fashions of the mind.”

Examine in journal Superior Healthcare Supplies: Tunable Conductive Hydrogel Scaffolds for Neural Cell Differentiation

Through: Harvard Wyss Institute