Korea University: Development of Wireless Brain Neurochemical System that is Degradable and Resorbable in vivo

Professor Suk-Won Hwang and Professor Chul-Ho Lee’s group of the KU-KIST Graduate School of Converging Science and Technology conducted a joint study with Professor Dong Pyo Jang of Hanyang University, Dr. Youngmee Jung of KIST, and Professor Huanyu Cheng of Pennsylvania State University, and they developed an electronic medical system that can be inserted into deep regions of the brain to measure neurochemical information and spontaneously resorbed after use. The results of the present study may play critical roles in the understanding and treatment of brain diseases related to neurotransmitters, such as Parkinson’s disease.

Neurotransmitters, secreted by the neurons in the brain, have various functions in the body, and their concentration can be abnormally high or low in brain disease patients compared to in healthy people. Dopamine, known as the ‘happy hormone,’ is one of those transmitters and is related to the sense of accomplishment or motor function regulation. In particular, Parkinson’s disease, a degenerative brain disease, is caused by reduced dopamine production. Therefore, the study and treatment of brain diseases requires a technology that can be used to accurately measure neurotransmitters, including dopamine and comprehensively analyze various physiological indexes in the brain. However, existing medical technologies rely on only the measurement of electric signals from the brain.

In the present study, a new 2D ‘transition metal chalcogenide catalyst’ was developed to measure the real-time variations in brain dopamine concentration. The research group focused on the phase transition of the 2D catalyst from semiconductor to metal. The metallic 2D catalyst based on molybdenum disulfide (MoS2) and tungsten disulfide (WS2) exhibits high surface negative potential and excellent chemical reactivity and effectively converts dopamine molecules into electric signals. In addition, since it can be degraded by the metabolic process after use, it is appropriate for applications in medical systems.

The research group inserted a sensor system, fabricated from the 2D catalyst and silicon nanomembranes, to wirelessly monitor the real-time variation in neurotransmitters for over 4 weeks and successfully collected information about pH and temperature changes and the electrical signals related to brain activity. After insertion into the brain, the monitoring system is spontaneously degraded and resorbed by the metabolic process of the body, meaning that no additional surgery is needed for its removal. Therefore, the newly developed system can be effectively applied to monitoring and rehabilitation during recovery from brain surgery.

Professor Suk-Won Hwang at KU commented, “Our results were obtained by the convergence of engineering technologies for the fabrication of biodegradable electronic devices and medical studies on the brain and nervous system. Our technology allows for the real-time monitoring of the neurochemical reactions in the brain that could have not been approached by conventional technologies. We expect that our results can be applied to the effective treatment of various acute and chronic brain diseases.”

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