Flexible and High-Density Nerve Interface for Peripheral Neuromodulation

Razi-ul Haque | 20-ERD-054

Project Overview

The purpose of this project is to develop an advanced, next-generation peripheral nerve interface to enable new capabilities for researchers working on brain-machine interfaces. Current, successful, technology is based upon a variety of approaches, the most common one utilizing cuff electrodes which encircle a peripheral nerve but is limited by low channel counts due to its hand-made nature. We have partnered with one of the top researchers in the field, Prof. Dustin Tyler at Case Western Reserve University, to help guide and test devices developed throughout this program. As part of this program, we developed a new polymer-based material that automatically changes shape when implanted in the body, simplifying the surgical approach and potentially improves functionality by slowly and gradually reshaping the peripheral nerve. This new material, a shape-memory polymer, was then developed further to enable its use with micromachining approaches like our previously-developed conventional microfabricated electrode arrays, enabling us to design and build higher-density and higher channel count electrode arrays that were previously not possible or available for peripheral nerve devices.

Mission Impact

Technologies developed on this project have potential for broad impact in the field of brain-machine interfaces and providing the ability for researchers to better understand and develop therapies and tools for a variety of ailments. Beyond the specific application target, interim findings such as nerve reshaping have the potential to further our understanding of specific biologic processes and physiological components. Additionally, the shape memory polymer that was developed here is novel in both its tunability and application in living organisms. The specific use is broader than implantable devices; in fact, the temperature of an organism, typically 37˚C, is close enough to room temperature that the tunability range is highly applicable for environmental applications, for example a sensor that opens or closes based upon reaching a specific temperature. Finally, the demonstrated ability to microfabricate devices using conventional photolithographic techniques also enables new opportunities for microscale sensors and devices that can be further functionalized with this technology.