3D Nanoprinted Electrodes Holds Potential for Personalized Treatment of Neurological Disorders
By Margaret Davis
Researchers from Carnegie Mellon University pioneered the CMU Array, a new type of microelectrode array (MEA) for brain-computer interface platforms that holds the potential for how doctors treat neurological disorders.
Phys.org reported that the MEA is 3D-printed at a fully customizable nanoscale, which means that patients suffering from epilepsy or limb function loss could someday have a personalized treatment plan. The researchers applied the newest microfabrication technique and Aerosol Jet 3D printing to produce the MEA and solve design barriers of other brain-computer interfaces (BCI) arrays.
New Means to Customize Electrode Layouts for Clinical Needs
Microelectrode arrays are a way to record electrophysiological activity needed for brain research. They play a fundamental role in neurology, but there is still no means to customize electrode layouts for experimental and clinical needs. Also, they have limitations in coverage, fragility, and expense.
But in the study titled “CMU Array: A 3D Nanoprinted, Fully Customizable High-density Microelectrode Array Platform,” published in Science Advances, researchers described how using a 3D nanoparticle printing approach helped them overcome these limitations that make use of the flexibility of the 3D printing process.
They created customizable and physically robust 3D multielectrode devices with high electrode densities of up to 2600 channels/cm2 of footprint and minimal gross tissue damage, and exceptional signal-to-noise ratio. It is highly customizable to reconfigure based on the patient’s needs.
The CMU Array is achieved in part by using custom 3D printed multilayer circuit boards that can support several biomedical devices. It is a practical design that enables targeted and large-scale recording of electrical signals in the brain.
CMU Array is the Densest BCI
One of the components that researchers used to create the CMU Array is the Aerosol Jet 3D printing which offered three significant advantages that allow the device to be customizable to fit particular needs. The MEA could work in 3D in the brain and has an increased density, making it more robust.
A similar report from News Medical Life Sciences said that MEA-based BCIs connect neurons in the brain with external electronics to monitor brain activity. These devices are often used in neuroprosthetic devices, artificial limbs, and visual implants to transport information from the brain to the limbs or organs that lost their functionality. Also, BCIs are known for treating neurological disorders.
There are two types of MEA; the oldest one is the Utah array from the University of Utah, patented in 1993. The silicon-based array use shanks that can be inserted into the brain to detect electrical discharge from neurons. Another type is the Michigan array which reads the electrons as they fire across the chips. But the design of both arrays can only record on a 2D plane, limiting its use.
The most important aspect of the CMU Array is its 3D sampling ability which is limited by the density of microelectrodes in the array and their capacity to position these arrays in precise spots where they should be. Adding the 3D significantly increases the array’s sampling ability, makes it customizable for specific applications and allows for more accurate and higher-fidelity readings.
Researchers said the CMU Array is the densest BCI, denser than the other MEAs. Higher-quality MEAs are in demand because of their advanced applications, such as precision medicine devices tailored to patients’ or experimenters’ needs.
It might take five years to see human testing and more years for commercial use. Nonetheless, they are excited to make it a success to begin various applications.