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[2020/06/03] Professor Chen and His Team Combined Diagnosis and Treatment with “Graphene” Microchips

Graphene is the thinnest, hardest and least resistive material known on earth and graphene nerve chips can overcome some of the past limitation of nerve chips, namely that they are unable to be used with Magnetic Resonance Imaging

 

Reducing diagnosis and treatment times has always been a challenge. Professor Chen and his team from National Yang-Ming University's Department of Biomedical Engineering have used graphene nanomaterial to recreate nerve probe chips that can be embed into the brain and are then able to detect neuronal activity in the form of electrical signaling and neurochemicals. These chips can also provide deep brain stimulation treatment; andnon-graphene chips cannot be used with MRI, which is an important tool when using deep brain stimulation.

 

General biomedical chips are produced using semiconductor and microelectromechanical techniques and these have been applied widely in biochemical analysis, testing for diseases and drug development. However, for brain disease diagnosis and treatment, nerve chips in the past have been limited due to biocompatibility problems and because they cause distortion during MRI imaging. This means that it has not been possible to integrate conventional nerve chip detection of neural electrical signals and neurochemicals with brain stimulation that require brain computed tomography (CT) scanning and/or MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) to allow functional brain implant localization and an assessment of the effects of treatment.

 

Graphene is the thinnest, hardest, least resistive nanomaterial known on Earth and the scientist who invented this novel material won the 2010 Nobel Prize in Physics. Graphene is widely used in the fields of aerospace, energy, and information technology. Under the Ministry of Science and Technology Program “Taiwan Brain Technology Development and International Rising Program” from 2019 to 2021, Professor Chen from National Yang-Ming University's Department of Biomedical Engineering , Professor Chen from National Chiao Tung University's Department of Materials Science and Engineering, Professor Li from Taipei Medical University's Ph.D. Program for Neural Regenerative Medicine and Researcher Huang from Academia Sinica Institute of Biomedical Sciences have established an interdisciplinary team to development graphene nerve probe chips that have the ability to detect multidimensional neuronal activity electric signals, and various important neurochemicals, while at the same time being able to carry out deep brain stimulation. The chip is also compatible with MRI and is able to avoid the image distortion that can occur under eddy currents.

 

     

  Nerve prove chips made of graphene (left); National Yang-Ming University Department of Biomedical Engineering Professor Chen (right)

 

The team has achieved important results during animal testing and has verified the fact that high frequency deep brain stimulation by graphene nerve probe chips is able to improve the cognition and memory symptoms associated with autism and Alzheimer’s disease. The team also obtained, for the first time, information on the changes that electric stimulation can bring about in neural network connections; the use of MRI imaging in this context will help to improve treatment efficacy.

 

Professor Chen remarked that, in the past, after inserting nerve chips into the human body, signal detection quality has often been affected by inflammation and surgical adhesions. However, these problems can be overcome with graphene chips, which have both excellent conductivity on the detection surface and can be coated with anti-inflammatory factors; together these allow them to achieve unprecedented biocompatibility together with excellent signal quality. He also stated that the diagnosis of autism and Alzheimer’s disease have, in the past, normally been evaluated using behavioral approaches or by brain imaging. Using MRI compatible nerve chips, it is possible to combine electrophysiology and brain imaging. This will allow the designing of precision biomedical chips for signals such as dopamine, glucose, and hydrogen peroxide depending on treatment needed. Such chips will help to integrate diagnosis and treatment and allow a solid foundation for precision medicine in the area of brain disease diagnosis and treatment to be developed.

 

Professor Chen and the members of his laboratory

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

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