Designifcation of Neurotechnological Devices through 3D Printed Functional Materials

Significance 

Neuro-technology is the application of devices to the nervous system for the purposes of assessing, monitoring or controlling it. This should however not be confused with regenerative neural tissue engineering even though the two are not entirely mutually exclusive. Understanding the fundamental workings of the human brain has for a long time been pursued by governments, corporations and even individuals: for example, the Human Brain Project funded by the European commission and the BRAIN initiative under the USA government.

Presently, despite the fact entities such as the cited examples were chiefly established to improve our comprehension of the human brain, there is a global exponential rise in innovative functional biomaterials for the symbiotic integration of man and machine. Unfortunately, for such endeavors, neuro-technology as with other disruptive technologies faces the daunting path of traversing the broad chasm between the bench (development of technology) and the bedside (application of technology). Therefore, it is imperative that a thorough clinical translation of medical devices intended to assess, monitor, and treat sensorimotor injuries be undertaken, so as to address the design and functional constraints which are cost limiting from a traditional manufacturing perspective.

Dr. Nathan Castro and Professor Dietmar W. Hutmacher from the Queensland University of Technology in Australia carried out an in-depth review of: first, brain–machine interface (BMI) with an emphasis on functional neural probes, secondly, review the existing knowledge on implantable and topical flexible electronics and lastly, assess the possibility of custom prostheses with haptic sensing. Their goal was to provide a better understanding of the current state-of the-art of the aforementioned areas with respect to 3D printable functional materials as well as a prospective on the feasibility of integrating all areas toward a modular BMI-directed neuro-prosthesis. Their work is currently published in the research journal, Advanced Functional Materials.

The authors began by engaging in a thorough overview of neural tissue engineering and scaffold design from a developmental biology perspective. Next, they concentrated on the BMI interface where they highlighted functional materials in combination with additive bio-manufacturing technologies, such as three- dimensional printing, for the effective translation of technologies addressing the brain–machine interface.

The authors concluded that for the convergence of tissue engineering and its multidisciplinary disciplines into neuro-technology was a necessity for the success of the technological innovations reviewed and discussed. They noted that such a convergence would result in improved disease diagnosis and therapeutic effectiveness of brain and nervous system disorders.

Nathan Castro and Professor Dietmar W. Hutmacher offered potential and workable solutions to the genuine unmet medical needs that persist in virtually every domain of brain and nervous system disabilities. Generally, it has been observed that an attempt to investigate tissue engineering and its multidisciplinary disciplines separately would be an oversight. Altogether, neuroscience is unstoppably metamorphosing from basic to translational science, now defined as neuro-technology.

Reference

Nathan J. Castro, Dietmar W. Hutmacher. Designifcation of Neurotechnological Devices through 3D Printed Functional Materials. Advanced Functional Materials 2018, volume 28, page 1703905

Go To Advanced Functional Materials

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