The interface is easy to insert into the body when dry, but behaves ‘stealthily’ inside the brain when wet
< Figure 1. Schematic of Hydrogel Hybrid Brain-Machine Interfaces >
Professor Seongjun Park’s research team and collaborators revealed a newly developed hydrogel-based flexible brain-machine interface. To study the structure of the brain or to identify and treat neurological diseases, it is crucial to develop an interface that can stimulate the brain and detect its signals in real time. However, existing neural interfaces are mechanically and chemically different from real brain tissue. This causes foreign body response and forms an insulating layer (glial scar) around the interface, which shortens its lifespan.
To solve this problem, the research team developed a ‘brain-mimicking interface’ by inserting a custom-made multifunctional fiber bundle into the hydrogel body. The device is composed not only of an optical fiber that controls specific nerve cells with light in order to perform optogenetic procedures, but it also has an electrode bundle to read brain signals and a microfluidic channel to deliver drugs to the brain.
The interface is easy to insert into the body when dry, as hydrogels become solid. But once in the body, the hydrogel will quickly absorb body fluids and resemble the properties of its surrounding tissues, thereby minimizing foreign body response.
The research team applied the device on animal models, and showed that it was possible to detect neural signals for up to six months, which is far beyond what had been previously recorded. It was also possible to conduct long-term optogenetic and behavioral experiments on freely moving mice with a significant reduction in foreign body responses such as glial and immunological activation compared to existing devices.
“This research is significant in that it was the first to utilize a hydrogel as part of a multifunctional neural interface probe, which increased its lifespan dramatically,” said Professor Park. “With our discovery, we look forward to advancements in research on neurological disorders like Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s disease that require long-term observation.”
The research was published in Nature Communications on June 8, 2021. (Title: Adaptive and multifunctional hydrogel hybrid probes for long-term sensing and modulation of neural activity) The study was conducted jointly with an MIT research team composed of Professor Polina Anikeeva, Professor Xuanhe Zhao, and Dr. Hyunwoo Yook.
This research was supported by the National Research Foundation (NRF) grant for emerging research, Korea Medical Device Development Fund, KK-JRC Smart Project, KAIST Global Initiative Program, and Post-AI Project.
< Figure 2. Design and Fabrication of Multifunctional Hydrogel Hybrid Probes >
Park, S., Yuk, H., Zhao, R. et al. Adaptive and multifunctional hydrogel hybrid probes for long-term sensing and modulation of neural activity. Nat Commun 12, 3435 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-021-23802-9
Professor Seongjun Park
Bio and Neural Interfaces Laboratory
Department of Bio and Brain Engineering
Professor Taeyun Ku from the Graduate School of Medical Science and Engineering and Professor Hanseul Yang from the Department of Biological Sciences were nominated as 2021 fellows of the Suh Kyungbae Foundation (SUHF). SUHF selected three young promising scientists from 53 researchers who are less than five years into their careers. A panel of judges comprised of scholars from home and abroad made the final selection based on the candidates’ innovativeness and power to influence. Prof2021-09-15
An interdisciplinary study shows that neurons carrying somatic mutations in MTOR can lead to focal epileptogenesis via non-cell-autonomous hyperexcitability of nearby nonmutated neurons During fetal development, cells should migrate to the outer edge of the brain to form critical connections for information transfer and regulation in the body. When even a few cells fail to move to the correct location, the neurons become disorganized and this results in focal cortical dysplasia. This conditio2021-08-26
Professor Sang Wan Lee from the Department of Bio and Brain Engineering was selected as the recipient of the 2021 IBM Global University Program Academic Award. The award recognizes individual faculty members whose emerging science and technology contains significant interest for universities and IBM. Professor Lee, whose research focuses on artificial intelligence and computational neuroscience, won the award for his research proposal titled A Neuroscience-Inspired Approach for Metacognitive2021-06-25
A new role of the ventral striatum explains habitual seeking behavior Researchers have been investigating how the brain controls habitual seeking behaviors such as addiction. A recent study by Professor Sue-Hyun Lee from the Department of Bio and Brain Engineering revealed that a long-term value memory maintained in the ventral striatum in the brain is a neural basis of our habitual seeking behavior. This research was conducted in collaboration with the research team lead by Professor Hyoung F.2021-06-03
Researchers have invented a smartphone-controlled soft brain implant that can be recharged wirelessly from outside the body. It enables long-term neural circuit manipulation without the need for periodic disruptive surgeries to replace the battery of the implant. Scientists believe this technology can help uncover and treat psychiatric disorders and neurodegenerative diseases such as addiction, depression, and Parkinson’s. A group of KAIST researchers and collaborators have engineered a2021-01-26