Precision electronic medicine in the brain

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Abstract

Periodically throughout history developments from adjacent fields of science and technology reach a tipping point where together they produce unparalleled advances, such as the Allen Brain Atlas and the Human Genome Project. Today, research focused at the interface between the nervous system and electronics is not only leading to advances in fundamental neuroscience, but also unlocking the potential of implants capable of cellular-level therapeutic targeting. Ultimately, these personalized electronic therapies will provide new treatment modalities for neurodegenerative and neuropsychiatric illness; powerful control of prosthetics for restorative function in degenerative diseases, trauma and amputation; and even augmentation of human cognition. Overall, we believe that emerging advances in tissue-like electronics will enable minimally invasive devices capable of establishing a stable long-term cellular neural interface and providing long-term treatment for chronic neurological conditions.

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Fig. 1: Unidirectional and bidirectional neurostimulation approaches.
Fig. 2: Challenges affecting neural interfaces.
Fig. 3: Schematic representation of syringe-injectable mesh electronic implant in a human brain.

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Acknowledgements

S.R.P. is supported by the Cure Alzheimer’s Fund and the Henry and Allison McCance Center. C.M.L. acknowledges support of this work by the Air Force Office of Scientific Research (FA9550-14-1-0136) and a National Institutes of Health Director’s Pioneer Award (1DP1EB025835-01).

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Correspondence to Shaun R. Patel or Charles M. Lieber.

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Competing interests

C.M.L. is a co-inventor on patents and patent applications relating to the article that have been filed by the authors’ institution (Harvard University) as follows: ‘Scaffolds comprising nanoelectronic components, tissues, and other applications’, inventors C.M.L., J. Liu, B. Tian, T. Dvir, R. S. Langer and D. S. Kohane; US9,457,128 (issued); describes nanoscale transistors for cell recording. ‘Systems and methods for injectable devices’, inventors C.M.L., J. Liu, Z. Cheng, G. Hong, T.-M. Fu and T. Zhou; 61/975,601 (pending), PCT/US2015/024252 (pending) and 15/301,792 (pending); describes injectable mesh electronics. ‘Techniques and systems for injection and/or connection of electrical devices’, inventors C.M.L., G. Hong, T.-M. Fu and J. Huang; 62/209,255 (pending), PCT/US2016/045587 (issued) and 15/749,617 (pending); describes injection method of mesh electronics. The authors are not involved in efforts related to commercialization of this intellectual property.

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