Deployable, liquid crystal elastomer-based intracortical probes
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Intracortical microelectrode arrays (MEAs) are currently limited in their chronic functionality due partially to the foreign body response (FBR) that develops in regions immediately surrounding the implant (typically within 50-100 µm). Mechanically flexible, polymer-based substrates have recently been explored for MEAs as a way of minimizing the FBR caused by the chronic implantation. Nonetheless, the FBR degrades the ability of the device to record neural activity. We are motivated to develop approaches to deploy multiple recording sites away from the initial site of implantation into regions of tissue outside the FBR zone. Liquid Crystal Elastomers (LCEs) are responsive materials capable of programmable and reversible shape change. These hydrophobic materials are also non-cytotoxic and compatible with photolithography. As such, these responsive materials may be well suited to serve as substrates for smart, implantable electronics. This study explores the feasibility of LCE-based deployable intracortical MEAs. LCE intracortical probes are fabricated on a planar substrate and adopt a 3D shape after being released from the substrate. The LCE probes are then fixed in a planar configuration using polyethylene glycol (PEG). The PEG layer dissolves in physiological conditions, allowing the LCE probe to deploy post-implantation. Critically, we show that LCE intracortical probes will deploy within a brain-like agarose tissue phantom. We also show that deployment distance increases with MEA width. A finite element model was then developed to predict the deformed shape of the deployed probe when embedded in an elastic medium. Finally, LCE-based deployable intracortical MEAs were capable of maintaining electrochemical stability, recording extracellular signals from cortical neurons in vivo, and deploying recording sites greater than 100 µm from the insertion site in vivo. Taken together, these results suggest the feasibility of using LCEs to develop deployable intracortical MEAs. STATEMENT OF SIGNIFICANCE: Deployable MEAs are a recently developed class of neural interfaces that aim to shift the recording sites away from the region of insertion to minimize the negative effects of FBR on the recording performance of MEAs. In this study, we explore LCEs as a potential substrate for deployable MEAs. The novelty of this study lies in the systematic and programmable deployment offered by LCE-based intracortical MEAs. These results illustrate the feasibility and potential application of LCEs as a substrate for deployable intracortical MEAs.
author list (cited authors)
Rihani, R. T., Stiller, A. M., Usoro, J. O., Lawson, J., Kim, H., Black, B. J., ... Pancrazio, J. J.