The United States is observing a rise in the number of neurological diseases. Stroke is considered as the fifth leading cause of death, followed by Alzheimer’s. Parkinson’s—another neurological disease—affects around 1 million people in the United States every year.
A universal method to treat some of these diseases is implantable neurostimulation devices. Platinum microelectrodes are one of the most widely used elements in these devices. However, it is susceptible to corrosion, which can decrease the functional lifespan of the devices.
Scientists at Purdue University have found out a solution to overcome this—they are applying a graphene monolayer to the devices to protect the microelectrodes. The study has been reported in the June 6th edition of 2D Materials.
I know from my industry experience that the reliability of implantable devices is a critical issue for translating technology into clinics. 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.
Hyowon “Hugh” Lee, Assistant Professor, College of Engineering, Purdue University
Lee is also a researcher at the Birck Nanotechnology Center, who headed the research group.
Lee stated that he learned about the benefit of using graphene from his teammate at Birck Nanotechnology Center, Zhihong Chen, who is a specialist in graphene technology. The research group has demonstrated the graphene monolayer to be a valuable diffusion barrier and electrical conductor.
“If you attempt to deliver more charge than the electrode can handle, it can corrode the electrode and damage the surrounding tissues,” Lee stated.
Moreover, he believes that microscale electrodes are going to play an important role in the future with more requirements 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,” Lee added.
Together with the Purdue Research Foundation Office of Technology Commercialization, Lee and his group are working on patenting and licensing the technology. They are searching for partners who are keen on licensing it.
The work supports Purdue’s Giant Leaps celebration of the university’s global advancements achieved in health care research as part of Purdue’s 150th anniversary. It is one of the four ideas of the yearlong celebration’s Ideas Festival, intended to present Purdue as an intellectual hub solving real-world problems.