A crew of researchers on the Harvard Wyss Institute have developed a gentle, hydrogel scaffold that may perform as a residing electrode for brain-computer interface purposes. 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 a wide range of neurons and astrocytes. The researchers hope that the ensuing ‘residing electrode’ could possibly be helpful for brain-computer interfaces, as its gentle and versatile nature will assist it to adapt with gentle neural tissues and its mobile cargo will assist to reinforce its biocompatibility and potential efficacy.
The scaffold consists of a gentle hydrogel (grey) that incorporates carbon nanotubes (blue) and graphene flakes (purple) 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 may 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 enormous. Nevertheless, the expertise nonetheless has a solution to go and on a primary look, machines and the human physique usually are not a match made in heaven. The interfacing electrodes in such programs are sometimes made utilizing steel and are inflexible, each of which don’t help the expertise in non-invasively interacting with delicate neural tissues.
These researchers got down to create an electrode that’s not simply versatile, but additionally coated in residing neural cells, and relies on the idea that residing tissue is prone to be essentially the most biocompatible materials to interface with different residing tissue. The researchers additionally conceived the cell-laden materials as delivering electrical impulses extra naturally via cell-cell contact.
“This conductive, hydrogel-based scaffold has nice potential,” stated Christina Tringides, a researcher concerned within the examine. “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, bettering their efficiency and lowering threat of harm.”
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 elegant throughout freeze-drying, leaving many pores into which cells can enter and stay. 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 varieties of mind cells inside our scaffolds is affirmation that the conductive hydrogel supplies them the proper of surroundings by which to develop in vitro,” stated Dave Mooney, one other researcher concerned within the examine. “It was particularly thrilling to see myelination on the neurons’ axons, as that has been an ongoing problem to copy in residing fashions of the mind.”
Examine in journal Superior Healthcare Supplies: Tunable Conductive Hydrogel Scaffolds for Neural Cell Differentiation
Through: Harvard Wyss Institute