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Electronic Neuropharmacology

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - e-NeuroPharma (Electronic Neuropharmacology)

Reporting period: 2021-03-01 to 2022-08-31

Diseases and disorders of the nervous system are major causes of human pain and suffering, and while analytical tools for early diagnosis of these diseases have been improving rapidly in recent years, new treatment strategies have been slower to emerge. The nervous system is complex and operates both through biochemical (neurotransmitter substances) and electronic (nerve impulses) signaling. Despite this duality, treatment of neurological disease states has been almost exclusively biochemical in nature. The reason for this is at least partly technological: traditional electronics consist of hard, rigid materials that interact poorly with the soft and flexible tissue of the nervous system. Implantation of electrodes into e.g. the brain first requires highly invasive surgery, and then tends to produce an immune response leading to local inflammation and eventually encapsulation of the electrode, reducing its effectiveness.
In the e-NeuroPharma project, we aim to develop a novel materials platform that will allow for minimally invasive introduction of electrodes and devices into nervous tissue. We employ organic electronic materials, that better match the properties of biological systems: they are soft, flexible, and unlike traditional, inorganic electronics they can inherently translate ionic fluxes, such as the concentration of a salt, into electronic signals – just like the nervous system does. The main reduction in invasiveness, however, comes from the possibility to introduce these materials in a pro-electrode form as a liquid or gel. This material is allowed to spread within the tissue and then polymerized into a functional electrode following the shape of the tissue it will interact with. In an upcoming scientific publication (currently submitted and awaiting review) we outline a method for polymerizing this type of tissue-templated electrode in living tissues without detrimental effects.
The e-NeuroPharma platform of materials, their introduction strategies and devices (such as electrodes) aims to form the starting point of novel treatment strategies for neurological disorders, addressing both their electronic and biochemical natures to reduce suffering and improve life quality for the many people affected by these diseases.