Biomaterials

Delivering to the Senses

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Science  28 Aug 2009:
Vol. 325, Issue 5944, pp. 1049
DOI: 10.1126/science.325_1049b

Though nerve cells can be stimulated externally by electrical impulses, controlled delivery of molecular neurotransmitters would enhance the selectivity of the activation process across cell types. Simon et al. used conducting organic polymers to create an encapsulated device for delivering neurotransmitters such as glutamate in either continuous or pulsed fashion under electronic control. The device was initially constructed in a planar geometry for in vitro testing, which achieved glutamate-induced spikes in intracellular Ca2+ concentration in astrocytes. For in vivo testing, the device was reconfigured into a syringe-like geometry in order to deliver glutamate to the cochlea of anaesthetized guinea pigs, thereby triggering a variation in auditory brainstem response. Based on the current configurations, the devices could be operated in either continuous delivery mode for up to 1 hour or in pulsed delivery mode for much longer periods of time.

Nat. Mater. 8, 10.1038/nmat2494 (2009).

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