January 27, 2023

A workforce of researchers on the Harvard Wyss Institute have developed a smooth, hydrogel scaffold that may operate as a dwelling electrode for brain-computer interface functions. The researchers used electrically conductive supplies and created a porous and versatile scaffold utilizing a freeze-drying course of. They then seeded the scaffold with human neural progenitor cells (NPCs) and cultured the scaffolds for prolonged intervals, prompting the cells to distinguish into a wide range of neurons and astrocytes. The researchers hope that the ensuing ‘dwelling electrode’ may very well be helpful for brain-computer interfaces, as its smooth and versatile nature will assist it to adapt with smooth neural tissues and its mobile cargo will assist to reinforce its biocompatibility and potential efficacy.

The scaffold consists of a smooth hydrogel (grey) that comprises carbon nanotubes (blue) and graphene flakes (pink) as conductive supplies to transmit electrical impulses all through the scaffold. Credit score: Wyss Institute at Harvard College

Mind-computer interfaces maintain monumental promise in unlocking therapeutic outcomes that might have appeared like science fiction just some brief years in the past. From controlling wheelchairs with the thoughts to restoring sight to the blind, the alternatives in enhancing affected person well-being are large. Nevertheless, the expertise nonetheless has a approach to go and on a primary look, machines and the human physique will not be a match made in heaven. The interfacing electrodes in such methods are usually made utilizing steel and are inflexible, each of which don’t help the expertise in non-invasively interacting with delicate neural tissues.

When grown on a viscoelastic hydrogel scaffold, human neural progenitor cells differentiate into a number of cell sorts which can be discovered within the human mind, together with oligodendrocytes (inexperienced) that produce myelin (white). Credit score: Wyss Institute at Harvard College

These researchers got down to create an electrode that’s not simply versatile, but additionally coated in dwelling neural cells, and is predicated on the idea that dwelling tissue is prone to be probably the most biocompatible materials to interface with different dwelling tissue. The researchers additionally conceived the cell-laden materials as delivering electrical impulses extra naturally by cell-cell contact.

“This conductive, hydrogel-based scaffold has nice potential,” mentioned Christina Tringides, a researcher concerned within the examine. “Not solely can or not it’s used to check the formation of human neural networks in vitro, it might additionally allow the creation of implantable biohybrid BCIs that extra seamlessly combine with a affected person’s mind tissue, enhancing their efficiency and reducing threat of damage.”

To create their scaffolds, the researchers used an alginate hydrogel and added some carbon nano-materials for electrical conductivity earlier than a remaining freeze-drying step. The freeze drying course of creates ice-crystals within the materials that then elegant throughout freeze-drying, leaving many pores into which cells can enter and dwell. They seeded the scaffolds with neural progenitor cells, which then differentiated into extra mature neural cells throughout an prolonged tradition interval.

“The profitable differentiation of human NPCs into a number of sorts of mind cells inside our scaffolds is affirmation that the conductive hydrogel offers them the correct of atmosphere wherein to develop in vitro,” mentioned Dave Mooney, one other researcher concerned within the examine. “It was particularly thrilling to see myelination on the neurons’ axons, as that has been an ongoing problem to duplicate in dwelling fashions of the mind.”

Research in journal Superior Healthcare Supplies: Tunable Conductive Hydrogel Scaffolds for Neural Cell Differentiation

Through: Harvard Wyss Institute