Implantable microelectrode arrays for neural recording and stimulation have demonstrated tremendous research and clinical potential. Studies of brain tissue response to neural electrode arrays have revealed localized microglia activation, followed by astrocytic scarring and neural degeneration. These reactions are thought to contribute to the low yield and chronic failure of neural recording, although direct links have not been soundly established. Past studies characterizing the CNS response to implants have used postmortem histology at discrete time points. This approach suffers from a large degree of variability and fails to capture the dynamic molecular, cellular and vascular changes of the host. To address this issue, we have developed an experimental set-up to directly image the electrode-tissue interface in live animals using 2-photon microscopy in conjunction with electrical recording. Previous work by our collaborator, Tracy Cui (NTE Lab), indicated that by coating the surface of neural probes with neural adhesion molecules, neuronal density around the device can be promoted while glial reaction attenuated. Meanwhile, neural recording quality is drastically improved. We hypothesize that promoting neuronal growth and health, and/or inhibiting microglia activation will lead to recording improvement. The specific objectives of this project are to investigate the biological mechanisms of the coating’s effect on recording and to evaluate the clinical potential of biomimetic and neuron camouflage coatings in a brain machine interface (BMI) model. First, the acute neuronal and microglia responses to coated probes will be characterized chronically in vivo in transgenic animals using two photon imaging and electrical recording. Real time tissue characteristics (such as neuronal and neurite density, microglia density and morphology, vasculature change and BBB leakage) will be correlated to recording metrics(such as unit yield, SNR, amplitude of signal and noise as well as impedance). Several biomolecules that promote or inhibit neuronal growth or microglia activation will also be immobilized on the Blackrock arrays to test our hypothesis. This project combines the cutting edge real-time imaging, effective biomaterial strategies and state of the art brain machine interface technology to understand the interactions between neural implants and host tissue.
The findings will guide the development of seamless neural interface devices for BMI, visual and auditory prosthesis, deep brain stimulation for Parkinson’s disease, depression and epilepsy, to name a few. The knowledge will also benefit other brain implants from biochemical sensing and therapeutic delivery to scaffold and stem cell transplant for treating neurological disorders.