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Nanotech coating could lead to better brain implants to treat diseases
Date:3/10/2009

ANN ARBOR, Mich.---Biomedical and materials engineers at the University of Michigan have developed a nanotech coating for brain implants that helps the devices operate longer and could improve treatment for deafness, paralysis, blindness, epilepsy and Parkinson's disease.

Currently, brain implants can treat Parkinson's disease, depression and epilepsy. These and the next generation of the devices operate in one of two ways. Either they stimulate neurons with electrical impulses to override the brain's own signals, or they record what working neurons are transmitting to non-working parts of the brain and reroute that signal.

On-scalp and brain-surface electrodes are giving way to brain-penetrating microelectrodes that can communicate with individual neurons, offering hope for more precise control of signals.

In recent years, researchers at other institutions have demonstrated that these implanted microelectrodes can let a paralyzed person use thought to control a computer mouse and move a wheelchair. Michigan researchers' say their coating can most immediately improve this type of microelectrode.

Mohammad Reza Abidian, a post-doctoral researcher in the Department of Biomedical Engineering who is among the developers of the new coating, says the reliability of today's brain-penetrating microelectrodes often begins to decline after they're in place for only a few months.

"You want to be able to use these for at least a couple years," Abidian said. "Current technology doesn't allow this in most cases because of how the tissues of the brain respond to the implants. The goal is to increase their efficiency and their lifespans."

The new coating Abidian and his colleagues developed is made of three components that together allow electrodes to interface more smoothly with the brain. The coating is made of a special electrically-conductive nanoscale polymer called PEDOT; a natural, gel-like buffer called alginate
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Contact: Nicole Casal Moore
ncmoore@umich.edu
734-647-1838
University of Michigan
Source:Eurekalert

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