Graphene to Protect Implantable Neurostimulators in People with Neurological Disorders

Graphene for implantable neurostimulators
Image: Wikimedia commons

The U.S. is seeing a rise in neurological disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’ disease. A common method to treat these diseases is using implantable neurostimulation devices. But platinum electrodes used in these devices are prone to corrosion, which can reduce the functional lifetime of the devices.

Researchers at Purdue University have now developed a novel method to protect against degradation of these neurostimulation devices. In a paper published in the journal 2D Materials, lead author Hyowon “Hugh” Lee, and colleagues present their methods for protecting platinum neurostimulators with a monolayer of graphene.

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“I know from my industry experience that the reliability of implantable devices is a critical issue for translating technology into clinics,” said Lee, who is an assistant professor in Purdue’s College of Engineering and a researcher at the Birck Nanotechnology Center. “This is part of our research focusing on augmenting and improving implantable devices using nano and microscale technologies for more reliable and advanced treatments. We are the first ones that I know of to address the platinum corrosion issue in neurostimulation microelectrodes.”

Lee said he learned about the advantage of using graphene from his colleague at Birck Nanotechnology Center, Zhihong Chen, who is an expert in graphene technology. The team has shown the graphene monolayer to be an effective diffusion barrier and electrical conductor,” reports Purdue.

Human brain
Image: Wikimedia commons

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“If you attempt to deliver more charge than the electrode can handle, it can corrode the electrode and damage the surrounding tissues,” Lee said. He also thinks that microscale electrodes are going to play a key role in the future with more demand for precise and targeted neurostimulation therapy. “We think neurosurgeons, neurologists, and other scientists in neuroengineering field will be able to use this electrode technology to better help patients with implantable devices for restoring eyesight, movement, and other lost functionalities.”

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