Scientists can now manipulate brain cells using smartphone

Posted on August 7, 2019

This device, using Lego-like replacement drug cartridges and powerful Bluetooth low energy, can target specific neurons of interesting using drug and light for long periods. This device enables chronic chemical and optical neuromodulation that has never been achieved before. This technology significantly overshadows conventional methods used by neuroscientists, which usually involve rigid metal tubes and optical fibres to deliver drugs and light.

To achieve chronic wireless drug delivery, scientists had to solve the challenge of exhaustion and the evaporation of drugs. Researchers from the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology and the University of Washington in Seattle collaborated to invent a neural device with a replaceable drug cartridge, which could allow neuroscientists to study the same brain circuits for several months without worrying about running out of drugs.

These 'plug-n-play' drug cartridges were assembled into a brain implant for mice with a soft and ultrathin probe (thickness of a human hair), which consisted of microfluidic channels and tiny LEDs (smaller than a grain of salt), for unlimited drug doses and light delivery. Easily controlled with a smartphone, neuroscientists can easily trigger any specific combination or precise sequencing of light and drug deliveries in any implanted target animal without being physically present.

This has allowed us to better dissect the neural circuit basis of behavior, and how specific neuromodulators in the brain tune behavior in various ways. This global collaborative effort among engineers and neuroscientists over a period of three consecutive years and tens of design iterations led to the successful validation of this powerful brain implant in freely moving mice, which researchers believe can truly speed up the uncovering of brain and its diseases.

Source material from Science Daily

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