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Optoelectronic medicine - nerve cell regulation with light

Objective

Bioelectronic medicine today is growing in leaps and bounds, with ambitious new technologies entering the clinic and already changing the lives of more than a million patients worldwide. Materials scientists are called to craft biomedical devices that are smaller, smarter, and less invasive. We propose to create implantable photovoltaic devices which can wirelessly stimulate the nervous system and enable a new type of minimally invasive optoelectronic medicine. To achieve this, we will use biocompatible organic semiconductors which can efficiently absorb light in the near infrared part of the spectrum, where biological tissues are transparent. By micropatterning stimulation pixels on ultrathin conformable substrates, we will create optoelectronic nerve cuff electrodes which will be orders-of-magnitude thinner than what is used clinically today. We will explore deeply the physics of this new type of electrolytic photovoltaic stimulator. The designs will be optimized to operate with safe light intensities delivered from outside of the body. Benchmarking the targeting of precise optoelectronic stimulation will be done in ex vivo and in vivo nerve models. Via control of spatial patterning and localized light actuation, we will develop unique understanding of highly specific and nuanced neural control. The unique aspect of precise neuromodulation wirelessly positions us to explore a number of fundamental questions in applied neuroscience. The project is driven by answering milestone scientific questions in device physics, photoelectrochemistry, and electrophysiology, however the project is simultaneously designed to tackle an important clinical application: vagus nerve stimulation (VNS). We will apply our findings to implement an implantable stimulator actuated transcutaneously by portable light sources. We will develop standard operating procedures for chronic optoelectronic VNS in rodent animal models, paving the way for future clinical trials.

Field of science

  • /natural sciences/physical sciences/electromagnetism and electronics/optoelectronics
  • /engineering and technology/environmental engineering/energy and fuels/renewable energy/solar energy
  • /natural sciences/biological sciences/neurobiology

Call for proposal

ERC-2020-STG
See other projects for this call

Funding Scheme

ERC-STG - Starting Grant

Host institution

VYSOKE UCENI TECHNICKE V BRNE
Address
Antoninska 548/1
601 90 Brno Stred
Czechia
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
EU contribution
€ 1 493 198

Beneficiaries (1)

VYSOKE UCENI TECHNICKE V BRNE
Czechia
EU contribution
€ 1 493 198
Address
Antoninska 548/1
601 90 Brno Stred
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments