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In Vivo Neural Recording with Nanoporous Graphene Microelectrodes

An inventive graphene-based neurotechnology with the potential to revolutionize neuroscience and medical applications is presented in a paper published in Nature Nanotechnology. The study, which is led by the Catalan Institute of Nanoscience and Nanotechnology (ICN2) in tandem with the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (UAB) and other national and international partners, is currently being utilized for therapeutic applications through the spin-off INBRAIN Neuroelectronics.

Preparation of the porous reduced GO thin-film EGNITE. This consists of filtering a GO solution through a porous membrane (1, 2), transferring the deposited film of stacked GO flakes onto a conductive substrate (3) and the hydrothermal reduction of the ensemble, which turns the film highly porous and conductive (4). Credit: Nature Nanotechnology (2024). DOI: 10.1038/s41565-023-01570-5

After years of research under the European Graphene Flagship project, ICN2 led the development of EGNITE (Engineered Graphene for Neural Interfaces), a novel class of flexible, high-precision, high-resolution implantable neurotechnology, in partnership with the University of Manchester.

The findings, which were published in Nature Neurotechnology, seek to advance the fields of brain-computer interfaces and neuroelectronics by introducing novel technologies.

EGNITE expands upon its developers' extensive background in producing and applying carbon nanostructures in medicine. With the use of modern technology based on nanoporous graphene, graphene microelectrodes with a diameter of just 25 µm can be assembled using manufacturing techniques commonly used in the semiconductor sector.

Low impedance and high charge injection are two characteristics of graphene microelectrodes that are critical for adaptable and effective neural interfaces.

Preclinical Validation of Functionality

Preclinical research using a variety of models for the central and peripheral nervous systems, conducted by a variety of neuroscience and biomedical experts in collaboration with ICN2, showed that EGNITE is capable of recording high-fidelity neural signals with remarkable clarity and precision and enabling highly targeted nerve modulation.

The novel blend of accurate nerve stimulation and high-fidelity signal recording provided by EGNITE technology is a potentially significant development in the field of neuroelectronic therapies.

This novel strategy fills a significant vacuum in neurotechnology, where little progress in materials science has been made in the past 20 years. Creating EGNITE electrodes can position graphene at the forefront of neurotechnological materials.

International Collaboration and Scientific Leadership

The technology on display today is an extension of the work done ten years ago by the Graphene Flagship, a European effort aimed at establishing European leadership in the field of technologies based on graphene and other two-dimensional materials.

This scientific discovery is the result of a team effort headed by ICN2 researchers Damià Viana (now at INBRAIN Neuroelectronics), Steven T. Walston (now at University of Southern California), and Eduard Masvidal-Codina, under the guidance of ICREA Jose A. Garrido, leader of the ICN2 Advanced Electronic Materials and Devices Group, and ICREA Kostas Kostarelos, leader of the ICN2 Nanomedicine Lab and the Faculty of Biology, Medicine & Health at the University of Manchester (UK). The research has had the participation of Xavier Navarro, Natàlia de la Oliva, Bruno Rodríguez-Meana and Jaume del Valle, from the Institute of Neurosciences and the Department of Cellular Biology, Physiology and Immunology of the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (UAB).

Prominent national and international organizations, including the University of Barcelona, the Grenoble Institut des Neurosciences - Université Grenoble Alpes (France), the National Graphene Institute in Manchester (UK), and the Institut de Microelectrònica de Barcelona - IMB-CNM (CSIC), have contributed to the collaboration.

Under the direction of CIBER researcher Dr Xavi Illa, technology incorporation into the conventional semiconductor manufacturing procedures has been carried out at the IMB-CNM (CSIC) Micro and Nanofabrication cleanroom.

Clinical Translation: Next Steps

INBRAIN Neuroelectronics, a Barcelona-based spin-off from ICN2 and ICREA, has been granted a patent and license for the EGNITE technology detailed in the Nature Nanotechnology article. IMB-CNM (CSIC) has assisted this license. The company is in charge of converting the technology into medical products and applications and is also a partner in the Graphene Flagship initiative.

Under the guidance of CEO Carolina Aguilar, INBRAIN Neuroelectronics is gearing up for the first-in-human clinical trials of this breakthrough graphene technology.

The semiconductor engineering industrial and innovation landscape in Catalonia, where determined national strategies prepare to build state-of-the-art facilities to generate semiconductor technologies based on emerging materials, provides a unique chance to speed up the translation of such results presented today into clinical applications.

Journal Reference:

Viana, D., et. al. (2023) Nanoporous graphene-based thin-film microelectrodes for in vivo high-resolution neural recording and stimulation. Nature Nanotechnology. doi:10.1038/s41565-023-01570-5


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