Neural probes 3D-printed for softer, more flexible implants

A team of researchers from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT; MA, USA) is working to 3D print softer, flexible neural implants to replace traditional metal, rigid implants that can cause inflammation and scarring.

Outlined in Nature Communications, the devices are made from an electrically conductive polymer that can form stable, electrically conductive patterns once 3D printed.

Having implanted one device into the brain of a mouse, the team reported to be able to monitor the activity of a single neuron.

We hope by demonstrating this proof of concept, people can use this technology to make different devices, quickly,” explained Hyunwoo Yuk (MIT).

They can change the design, run the printing code and generate a new design in 30 minutes. Hopefully this will streamline the development of neural interfaces, fully made of soft materials,” Yuk continued.

Traditionally, electrodes are rigid metal wires and once there are vibrations, these metal electrodes could damage tissue,” Xuanhe Zhao, Professor at MIT, added. “We’ve shown now that you could insert a gel probe instead of a needle.”

The beauty of a conducting polymer hydrogel is, on top of its soft mechanical properties, it is made of hydrogel, which is ionically conductive, and also a porous sponge of nanofibers, which the ions can flow in and out of,” Baoyang Lu (Jiangxi Science and Technology Normal University; Nanchang, China) concluded. “Because the electrode’s whole volume is active, its sensitivity is enhanced.”

>> Read the full story on our sister site, Neuro Central

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Sources: Yuk H, Lu B, Lin S et al. 3D printing of conducting polymers. Nat. Comm. 11, 1604 (2020);

Lead image: Printing electrodes. Technique may enable speedy, on-demand design of softer, safer neural devices. Courtesy of the researchers, available via:

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