Feb 12, 2019 | By Cameron

The field of electroceuticals makes use of electrical signals to stimulate nerve cells of specific tissues and organs to develop, improve, and regenerate performance. Electroceutical devices and therapies are expected to treat a wide range of conditions but without the negative side effects that are associated with many pharmaceuticals. Recently, researchers from the ARC Centre of Excellence for Electromaterials Science (ACES) collaborated with researchers from the University of Texas at Dallas to develop a graphene-based, 3D bioprinted “sutrode.”

Sutrode is an amalgamation of electrode and suture because the device simulates the electrical properties of the former and the mechanical properties of the latter. Most electroceutical research has been limited to traditional materials that are not entirely compatible with the soft tissues they’re intended to interact with, limiting their electrical communication with the nerves.

The ACES team used a “wet spinning” fabrication method to create the new graphene-based fibers that are stiff enough to penetrate soft tissues while remaining flexible enough to be shaped around tiny nerve bundles after implantation.“The strength and flexibility of the sutrode allow us to tie the device around incredibly small nerve bundles that then record and detect neuronal activity, giving us more effective communication from these individual nerve areas that any current electroceutical methods to then determine specific treatments for specific conditions,” remarked Romero-Ortega, a researcher from the University of Texas at Dallas.

ACES Director Professor Gordon Wallace remarked that the team has long believed that graphene will advance the field, adding, “The sutrode is truly ground-breaking for the field of electroceuticals, and offers opportunities and results that may not be possible with pharmaceutical treatments.”

Wallace went on to explain the achievement in more detail: “Greater spatial control is the key in successful electroceuticals to effectively stimulate specific nerves to treat specific medical conditions, and the sutrode has demonstrated unprecedented sensitivity in recording signals from nerves and unprecedented spatial resolution over the electrical stimulation of nerves.”

Professor Mario Romero-Ortega commented on the potential of the collaboration: “Our sutrodes could be an ideal material for developing the next generation of neural stimulation and recording electrodes that provide the opportunity to treat a range of diseases without drugs, such as diabetes.” The sutrodes will be 3D printed at TRICEP (Translational Research Initiative for Cellular Engineering and Printing), Australia’s newest 3D bioprinting facility, located in North Wollongong and owned by the University of Wollongong. It seems that in only a few years, 3D printed devices will enhance the performance of our organs, perhaps doing away with the need for insulin or blood pressure medicines.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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