Organic electronics for precise delivery of neurotransmitters to modulate mammalian sensory function

Nat Mater. 2009 Sep;8(9):742-6. doi: 10.1038/nmat2494. Epub 2009 Jul 5.


Significant advances have been made in the understanding of the pathophysiology, molecular targets and therapies for the treatment of a variety of nervous-system disorders. Particular therapies involve electrical sensing and stimulation of neural activity, and significant effort has therefore been devoted to the refinement of neural electrodes. However, direct electrical interfacing suffers from some inherent problems, such as the inability to discriminate amongst cell types. Thus, there is a need for novel devices to specifically interface nerve cells. Here, we demonstrate an organic electronic device capable of precisely delivering neurotransmitters in vitro and in vivo. In converting electronic addressing into delivery of neurotransmitters, the device mimics the nerve synapse. Using the peripheral auditory system, we show that out of a diverse population of cells, the device can selectively stimulate nerve cells responding to a specific neurotransmitter. This is achieved by precise electronic control of electrophoretic migration through a polymer film. This mechanism provides several sought-after features for regulation of cell signalling: exact dosage determination through electrochemical relationships, minimally disruptive delivery due to lack of fluid flow, and on-off switching. This technology has great potential as a therapeutic platform and could help accelerate the development of therapeutic strategies for nervous-system disorders.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Astrocytes / cytology
  • Astrocytes / metabolism
  • Biological Transport
  • Drug Delivery Systems / instrumentation
  • Drug Delivery Systems / methods*
  • Electronics*
  • Electrophoresis
  • Mice
  • Nervous System Diseases / drug therapy
  • Neurotransmitter Agents / metabolism*
  • Neurotransmitter Agents / pharmacology
  • Neurotransmitter Agents / therapeutic use
  • Organic Chemicals / chemistry*
  • Sensation / drug effects*


  • Neurotransmitter Agents
  • Organic Chemicals