According to an international team of researchers, a wireless, biodegradable sensor could provide doctors with a means to monitor changes in brain chemistry without requiring a second procedure to remove the implant.
The researchers used a minimally invasive approach on mice to put a wireless, biodegradable gadget into the deep brain region of a mouse. Before harmlessly dissolving back into the body, the gadget collected data on dopamine levels, an important neurotransmitter, and other brain features such as pH levels, temperature, and electrophysiology.
Because dopamine is essential in many neurological diseases, clinicians might employ a biodegradable sensor to detect the neurotransmitter in a variety of therapies and operations.
“The direct measurement of dopamine can be highly significant because neurotransmitters have a role in a lot of neurological associated disorders,” said Larry Cheng, the Dorothy Quiggle Professor in Engineering and an associate of the Institute for Computational and Data Sciences.
“I believe that in the past, they looked at a variety of other indicators such as temperature, fever, and sweating, to name a few. These related parameters can be very helpful when we don’t have the direct measurement, but if we can have the direct measurement of this neurotransmitter at the target location and in real time, that can be much more direct and helpful, because information can be difficult to infer based on those other parameters.”
We have to introduce the material to represent the 2D material and dopamine, and then you have to make sure they’re stable. As a result, we’ll need to optimize the basic structure before studying the interaction between the stabilized material and the dopamine.Professor Larry Cheng
The silicon-based implant contains a semiconductor known as two-dimensional transition metal dichalcogenides, or TMDCs, which are a new family of materials that are rapidly being exploited in nanoelectronics and nanophotonics applications. The ability to modify these atomically thin TMDCs allowed the scientists to design the implant to be biodegradable while maintaining electrical and electrochemical performance.
All of this technology had to be crammed into a probe around 13 or 14 millimeters long to make it implantable, according to Cheng. A normal strength aspirin has a diameter of around 14 millimeters.
“That’s really for the overall device, but if we’re talking about the sensor itself, that’s even smaller,” said Cheng, who is also a member of the Materials Research Institute. The device was subsequently tested by placing the probe into a region of the mouse’s brain known as the basal ganglia.
In a clinical scenario, Cheng said, patients would wear a headband or other form of gadget to transfer implant signals to equipment that medical professionals might use to monitor the patients’ status. The key advantage of a biodegradable device, according to the researchers, is that it would not require any more procedures to remove it, which would increase the risks of recovery.
“Currently, after full recuperation, the device must be removed, or there will be nothing within that we don’t need to use,” Cheng explained. “That is why, in this case, the gadget is meant to be biodegradable, and after a given period of time and once it has served its purpose, it can safely dissolve.” As a result, the patient will not have to have a second surgery to remove the device.
According to Cheng, the sheer amount of chemicals, materials, and designs that could be employed to create this device necessitated the employment of modern computational tools. He went on to say that computers were utilized to simulate various chemicals and bioengineering techniques in order to find the best materials and designs for detecting and measuring the target molecule, in this case, dopamine.
“We have to introduce the material to represent the 2D material and dopamine, and then you have to make sure they’re stable,” Cheng explained. “As a result, we’ll need to optimize the basic structure before studying the interaction between the stabilized material and the dopamine.”
The team eventually hopes that the device may be utilized to aid human patients, but they anticipate that an urgent need will be for clinicians who are doing animal research.
“Some of the prospective therapy choices may first be available in animal trials,” Cheng explained. “The implant might help scientists initially examine how a disease advances, how a patient recovers from a treatment, and how effective that treatment is.” “As a result, merely using the implant in an animal model to better examine these concerns can be highly beneficial.”
Cheng believes that future research could focus on developing a sensor that measures other components of brain chemistry in addition to dopamine detection.