Bioelectronic devices have numerous potential benefits to human health, from in-home wellness monitoring to diagnosis and treatment of neuropsychiatric diseases. However, safe and effective use of these devices is limited by the rigid, non-biocompatible electronic components that must be incorporated to allow execution of the required functions. This project seeks to study how soft and fully biocompatible materials can be leveraged to interact directly with signals from the body without damaging tissue. A transistor fabricated from these materials will be used to create the circuits necessary for bioelectronic devices to acquire and modulate the activity of neurons in the brain. The outcome of the research will benefit society by improving the design of bioelectronic devices currently used for patients with conditions such as epilepsy or Parkinson's disease by eliminating the need for implantation of bulky or rigid materials in the body. This project will also facilitate understanding of the principles underlying interactions between the body and electronic devices. The educational component of this project leverages ion-gated transistors as biocompatible and low-cost components to be used in student and educator projects that teach principles of bioelectronic device design. These projects will be maintained in a comprehensive database to facilitate dissemination to educators and outreach coordinators, providing evidence-based methods to improve project-based learning in bioelectronics more broadly. The educational objectives of the project are to provide students and educators with hands-on opportunities to design and test simple, biocompatible bioelectronic devices. These efforts will increase exposure to engineering methods in schools and stimulate interest in bioelectronics to benefit health.

There is an enormous need to develop bioelectronic components that can merge biocompatibility, ion transduction, high speed, and reliable operation in physiological environments. The objective of the project is to develop ion-driven, conformable, implantable bioelectronic devices to enable efficient interaction with neural circuits. The central hypothesis is that ion-gated transistors will effectively interact with neural signals because they can directly transduce the brain's ionic flux, and are sufficient to create the integrated circuits required for fully implantable, soft, closed-loop devices that do not require rigid encapsulation. The research involves fabrication of integrated circuits comprised of ion-gated transistors with comprehensive in vitro and modeling-based characterization of the parameters governing their operation in physiologic environments. These devices are then used to modulate neural networks in an in vivo animal model of epilepsy and acquire neurophysiologic data from human subjects. The rationale underlying this research is that realization of such devices will transform design of bioelectronic devices with the potential to enhance diagnosis and therapy for neuropsychiatric disease.

This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.

National Science Foundation (NSF)
Division of Electrical, Communications and Cyber Systems (ECCS)
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Usha Varshney
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Columbia University
New York
United States
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