Duygu Kuzum, a 2004 graduate of Electrical and Electronics Engineering Department (EEE), designed and built neural electrodes that can be used as brain implants with less side effects. Kuzum is currently an assistant professor in the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department of University of California, San Diego.
Kuzum and the members of her lab lab at the University of California San Diego figured that electrodes made from nitinol, an alloy of nickel and titanium, might be a good fit for long-term brain implants. In Today’s standard the implantation procedure tears at the brain’s vasculature, stresses its astrocyte support cells, and causes other damage. Kuzum and her group figured that if the microelectrodes could steer around blood vessels, the body’s response would be much less severe. The idea is to take a high-resolution CT scan of the implant area, map a safe path for the electrodes, and program microelectrodes to form the shape of that path as they’re inserted into the brain.
The team started by making a bundle of 16 nitinol electrodes, each with a diameter of just 23 micrometers. The group then fitted these electrodes into a mold in the shape of the path the electrodes must travel through a model of the brain. Kuzum’s group built an injection device that feeds a bundle of microelectrodes through a 210-μm-wide needle. They tested the system by inserting it into a 3D-printed model of a mouse brain. Even though the technology is a long way from use in humans, Kuzum’s team is exploring the idea with surgeons at UCSD as a possible improvement to electrodes for deep-brain stimulation, which are now implanted to treat Parkinson’s disease.
IEEE Spectrum Article