Bio-inspired hybrid microelectrodes: a hybrid solution to improve long-term performance of chronic intracortical implants

Front Neuroeng. 2014 Apr 10;7:7. doi: 10.3389/fneng.2014.00007. eCollection 2014.


The use of implants that allow chronic electrical stimulation and recording in the brain of human patients is currently limited by a series of events that cause the deterioration over time of both the electrode surface and the surrounding tissue. The main reason of failure is the tissue inflammatory reaction that eventually causes neuronal loss and glial encapsulation, resulting in a progressive increase of the electrode-electrolyte impedance. Here, we describe a new method to create bio-inspired electrodes to mimic the mechanical properties and biological composition of the host tissue. This combination has a great potential to increase the implant lifetime by reducing tissue reaction and improving electrical coupling. Our method implies coating the electrode with reprogrammed neural or glial cells encapsulated within a hydrogel layer. We chose fibrin as a hydrogel and primary hippocampal neurons or astrocytes from rat brain as cellular layer. We demonstrate that fibrin coating is highly biocompatible, forms uniform coatings of controllable thickness, does not alter the electrochemical properties of the microelectrode and allows good quality recordings. Moreover, it reduces the amount of host reactive astrocytes - over time - compared to a bare wire and is fully reabsorbed by the surrounding tissue within 7 days after implantation, avoiding the common problem of hydrogels swelling. Both astrocytes and neurons could be successfully grown onto the electrode surface within the fibrin hydrogel without altering the electrochemical properties of the microelectrode. This bio-hybrid device has therefore a good potential to improve the electrical integration at the neuron-electrode interface and support the long-term success of neural prostheses.

Keywords: bio-inspired; chronic implants; fibrin; gliosis; in-vivo; intracortical microelectrodes.