Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is an irreversible, progressive neurodegenerative disease that slowly destroys memory and thinking skills eventually leading to death from complete brain failure. It is the most common cause of dementia and affects more than 46 million people globally, with 500'000 new cases diagnosed annually in the United States alone. While there is still no cure for AD, there are several prescription drugs approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to treat its symptoms. Recently, there has been growing excitement around treating neurological diseases using neuromodulation techniques. Flickering strobe lights at gamma-frequency of 40 Hz have shown very promising results in mouse models where microglia immune cells could be activated and contributed to degradation of amyloid- proteins. Invasive neuromodulation methods can target very specific areas in the brain. The current modulation devices, however, are comparable to that of early cardiac pacemakers, leading to fibrotic encapsulation within weeks. This is mainly predicated on the neural probe’s mechanical properties, given by the hard platinum/iridium electrodes from the semiconductor industry. Our proposed approach for ten thousand times softer electrodes is based on nano engineered neural interfaces (NENI) - hybrid microstructured polymer pads covered by ultra-thin and soft nanostructured metal/elastomer compounds. Our NENI probes will allow a rapid reconfiguration to pre-selected brain targets for a patient-specific anatomy and therefore enable the activation of microglia immune cells.
What is special about the project?
Life expectancy has increased dramatically in industrialized countries, making us more vulnerable to many age-related diseases. Nano-engineered probes with compliant and nanostructured electrodes have the potential to revolutionize not only the treatment of Alzheimer's disease but also to enable a healthy ageing for hundreds of millions of people worldwide suffering from devastating neurological conditions such as Parkinson's disease, chronic back pain, epilepsy and even depression.
The activities within this GRS pilot project are essential to translate the scientific results towards the clinical translation phase. First, we will make sure NENI electrodes are long-term stable in phosphate buffered saline. Second, we will perform in vitro tests of NENI electrodes on microglia immune cells and in vivo tests on Alzheimer's disease mouse lines. The project will start in August 2019.
B. Osmani, T. Töpper, B. Müller, «Conducting and stretchable nanometer-thin gold/thiol-functionalized polydimethylsiloxane films», Journal of Nanophotonics 12(3), 033006 (2018);
B. Osmani, H. Deyhle, T. Töpper, T. Pfohl, B. Müller, «Gold layers on elastomers near the critical stress regime», Advanced Materials Technologies 2, 1700105 (2017);
B. Osmani, G. Gerganova, B. Müller, «Biomimetic nanostructures for the silicone-biosystem interface: tuning oxygen-plasma treatments of polydimethylsiloxane», European Journal of Nanomedicine 9(2), 69-77 (2017)
Persons involved in the project
Dr. Bekim Osmani
, Project leader, Department of Biomedical Engineering, University of Basel
Prof. Dr. med. Raphael Guzman, Department of Neurosurgery, University Hospital Basel
Dr. Helmut Schift, Laboratory for Micro- and Nanotechnology, Paul Scherrer Institute
Prof. Dr. Per Magnus Kristiansen, Institute of Polymer Nanotechnology (INKA), FHNW Windisch
Dr. Rowena Crockett, Empa, Coating Competence Center, Dübendorf, Switzerland
Prof. Dr. Bert Müller, Biomaterials Science Center, Department of Biomedical Engineering, University of Basel
Dr. Tino Töpper, Biomaterials Science Center, Department of Biomedical Engineering, University of Basel
Last update to this project presentation 18.06.2019