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Morphing electronics enable neuromodulation in growing tissue

An Author Correction to this article was published on 27 April 2020

This article has been updated


Bioelectronics for modulating the nervous system have shown promise in treating neurological diseases1,2,3. However, their fixed dimensions cannot accommodate rapid tissue growth4,5 and may impair development6. For infants, children and adolescents, once implanted devices are outgrown, additional surgeries are often needed for device replacement, leading to repeated interventions and complications6,7,8. Here, we address this limitation with morphing electronics, which adapt to in vivo nerve tissue growth with minimal mechanical constraint. We design and fabricate multilayered morphing electronics, consisting of viscoplastic electrodes and a strain sensor that eliminate the stress at the interface between the electronics and growing tissue. The ability of morphing electronics to self-heal during implantation surgery allows a reconfigurable and seamless neural interface. During the fastest growth period in rats, morphing electronics caused minimal damage to the rat nerve, which grows 2.4-fold in diameter, and allowed chronic electrical stimulation and monitoring for 2 months without disruption of functional behavior. Morphing electronics offers a path toward growth-adaptive pediatric electronic medicine.

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Fig. 1: MorphE using viscoplastic electronic materials.
Fig. 2: Self-bonding MorphE for soft and conformable neural interfaces.
Fig. 3: MorphE accommodates developmental growth for chronically stable neuromodulation, nerve growth monitoring and conduction velocity testing.
Fig. 4: Behavior study and biocompatibility of MorphE on growing nerves.

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We thank P. Chu for her assistance in this work. We thank K. Xu for assistance with statistical analysis. We thank Agfa for providing PEDOT:PSS Orgacon ICP 1050. Part of this work was performed at the Stanford Nano Shared Facilities, supported by the National Science Foundation under award ECCS-1542152. Y.L. is supported by National Science Scholarship (A*STAR, Singapore). This research was supported in part by the Stanford Bio-X seed funding (Z.B.), Stanford University Dean’s Postdoctoral Fellowship (S.S.), National Institutes of Health (NIH) F32HD098808 (S.S.), and NIH K08NS089976 (P.G.) and the Alliance for Regenerative Rehabilitation Research and Training supported by NIH P2C HD086843 (P.G.).

Author information




Y.L., J.L., S.S., P.G. and Z.B. designed the project and experiments. Y.L., J.L., J.K., S.C., Y.T., W.X., Y.Z. and V.M. developed the materials and performed device fabrication and characterization. Y.L., S.S. and J.L. performed animal experiments. S.S. and K.M. performed animal behavior tests and tissue processing. Y.L., J.L., S.S., J.B.-H.T., P.G. and Z.B. wrote the manuscript. All authors reviewed and commented on the manuscript.

Corresponding authors

Correspondence to Paul M. George or Zhenan Bao.

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Supplementary information

Supplementary Information

Supplementary Figs. 1–24.

Reporting Summary

Supplementary Video 1

Robust interface between MorphE and sciatic nerve 4 weeks after implantation. MorphE maintains a stable enclosure during pulling with a tweezer.

Supplementary Video 2

Gait comparison between rat implanted with MorphE and cuff electrodes for 4 weeks. The devices are implanted in the left leg only.

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Liu, Y., Li, J., Song, S. et al. Morphing electronics enable neuromodulation in growing tissue. Nat Biotechnol 38, 1031–1036 (2020).

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