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Wayne State researcher receives NSF award to develop neural implants
Date:8/3/2011

DETROIT Neural implants have the potential to treat disorders and diseases that typically require long-term treatment, such as blindness, deafness, epilepsy, spinal cord injury, and Alzheimer's and Parkinson's. However, implantable devices have been problematic in clinical applications because of bodily reactions that limit device functioning time.

Mark Ming-Cheng Cheng, Ph.D., assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering at Wayne State University, is out to change that. He recently received a five-year, $475,000 Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) grant from the National Science Foundation to study the potential of graphene, a novel carbon material, in the development of a reliable, high-performance, long-term implantable electrode system to improve quality of life using nanotechnology. Cheng is collaborating with colleagues in the School of Medicine, in biomedical engineering, and in WSU's Smart Sensors and Integrated Microsystems and Nano Incubator programs.

Neural disorders and diseases result when parts of the brain don't interact properly or stop interacting altogether. Cheng said that over the past 50 years, electrodes used to stimulate connections between those parts typically stop working after a few weeks because scar tissue forms around the electrode, and the materials that comprise the electrode can't carry enough charge through the scar tissue.

Cheng hypothesizes that graphene, a flexible material recently discovered by Russian scientists, might be better suited to long-term treatment than platinum and iridium oxide, two of the most popular materials now used to make implantable electrodes. Making platinum and iridium oxide electrodes small enough to be implanted reduces the amount of charge they can carry and therefore limits their ability to stimulate neural connections. Additionally, Cheng said, signals from these electrodes to machines that record neural activity often contain a lot "noise" becaus
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Contact: Julie O'Connor
julie.oconnor@wayne.edu
313-577-8845
Wayne State University - Office of the Vice President for Research
Source:Eurekalert

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