A team of international researchers from Harvard University has developed an injectable device that delivers a nano-view of the brain.  

Lead researcher, Charles Lieber, Professor of Chemistry and Chemical Biology, Harvard University and his research team have developed a method to fabricate nano-scale electronic scaffolds that can be injected via a syringe. The scaffolds can then be connected to devices which are used to monitor the neutral activity in the brain, stimulate tissues and even promote the regeneration of neurons.

Researchers created the scaffold by laying out a mesh of nanowires sandwiched between layers of organic polymer. The first layer is then dissolved, leaving the flexible mesh, which can be pinched into a needle and administered as an injection to stimulate or record brain activity.

According to Prof Lieber, the device is the first of its kind to explore the interface between electronic structures and biology.

“For the past 30 years, people have made incremental improvements in micro fabrication techniques, that have allowed us to make rigid probes smaller and smaller, but no one has addressed this issue — the electronics/cellular interface — at the level at which biology works.”

“This opens up a completely new frontier where we can explore the interface between electronic structures and biology,” Prof Lieber said.

Implanting electronics into the brain and deep brain stimulation (DBS) has been used to treat different disorders for decades; however the nanofabricated scaffolds operate on a completely different scale.

“Existing techniques are crude relative to the way the brain is wired. They can cause inflammation in the tissue, which requires periodically changing the position or the stimulation,” said Prof Lieber.

“With our injectable electronics, it’s as if it’s not there at all.

“It is one million times more flexible than any state-of-the-art flexible electronics and has sub cellular feature sizes,” Prof Lieber said.

Researchers hope to better understand how the body reacts to the injectable device over time.

“The idea of being able to precisely position and record from very specific areas, or even specific neurons, over an extended period of time, could make a huge impact on neuroscience,” said Prof Lieber.

The research was published in the June 8, 2015 edition of Nature Nanotechnology.