A thin plastic ribbon printed with advanced electronics is threaded through the eye of an ordinary sewing needle. The device, containing LEDs, electrodes and sensors, can be injected into the brain or other organs.
Researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Washington University in St. Louis developed ultrathin, flexible optoelectronic devices – including LEDs the size of individual neurons – that are lighting the way for neuroscientists in the field of op to genetics and beyond.
Led by John A. Rogers, the Swan Lund professor of materials science and engineering at the U. of I., and Michael R. Bruchas, a professor of anesthesiology at Washington University, the researchers will publish their work in the April 12 issue of the journal Science.
“These materials and device structures open up new ways to integrate semiconductor components directly into the brain,” said Rogers, who directs the Frederick Seitz Materials Research Laboratory at the U. of I. “More generally, the ideas establish a paradigm for delivering sophisticated forms of electronics into the body: ultra-miniaturized devices that are injected into and provide direct interaction with the depths of the tissue.”
The researchers demonstrated the first application of their devices in op to genetics, a new area of neuroscience that uses light to stimulate targeted neural pathways in the brain. The procedure involves genetically programming specific neurons to respond to light.