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Mechanically soft neural implants
When implanting a material into the body, not only does it need the right functional properties, but it also needs to have mechanical properties that match the native tissue or organ. If the material is too soft, it will be mechanically degraded, and if it is too hard it may get covered with scar tissue or it may damage the surrounding tissues. Starting with a transparent silicone substrate, Minev et al. patterned microfluidic channels to allow for drug delivery, and soft platinum/silicone electrodes and stretchable gold interconnects for transmitting electrical excitations and transferring electrophysiological signals. In tests of spinal cord implants, the soft neural implants showed biointegration and functionality within the central nervous system.
Science, this issue p. 159
The mechanical mismatch between soft neural tissues and stiff neural implants hinders the long-term performance of implantable neuroprostheses. Here, we designed and fabricated soft neural implants with the shape and elasticity of dura mater, the protective membrane of the brain and spinal cord. The electronic dura mater, which we call e-dura, embeds interconnects, electrodes, and chemotrodes that sustain millions of mechanical stretch cycles, electrical stimulation pulses, and chemical injections. These integrated modalities enable multiple neuroprosthetic applications. The soft implants extracted cortical states in freely behaving animals for brain-machine interface and delivered electrochemical spinal neuromodulation that restored locomotion after paralyzing spinal cord injury.