Brain Implant Essentially Melts into Place

PHILADELPHIA, April 19 (UPI) — U.S. medical researchers say they have developed a brain implant that essentially melts into place, snugly fitting onto the brain’s surface.

Dr. Brian Litt of the University of Pennsylvania, an associate professor of neurology, said the silk-based implant he and his team developed can hug the brain like shrink wrap, collapsing into its grooves and stretching over its rounded surfaces.

“The focus of our study was to make ultrathin arrays that conform to the complex shape of the brain, and limit the amount of tissue damage and inflammation,” Litt said.

He said the technology could pave the way for better devices to monitor and control seizures, and to transmit signals from the brain past damaged parts of the spinal cord.

The scientists said their findings show the ultrathin flexible implants can record brain activity more faithfully than thicker implants embedded with similar electronics.

Besides its flexibility, the researchers said silk was chosen as the base material because it is durable enough to undergo patterning of thin metal traces for electrodes and other electronics. It can also be engineered to avoid inflammatory reactions, and to dissolve at controlled time points, from almost immediately after implantation to years later.

The research that included Professor John Rogers at the University of Illinois and Professors David Kaplan and Fiorenzo Omenetto at Tufts University appears in the early online edition of the journal Nature Materials.

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