Medical Research

University of Oregon

Richard Taylor, Darren Johnson, Benjamin Alemán, Miriam Deutsch, Christopher Niell
Eugene, OR
$900,000
December 2015

A team of researchers at the University of Oregon proposes to simulate, fabricate and test a novel electronic-nerve interface (interconnect).  Their objective is to engineer bioinspired interconnects that will have the same geometry as the nerves they interface with.  The investigators posit that designing electronics that mimic the repetitive fine branching, or fractal, pattern seen in nature, such as at the dendritic ends of neurons, could radically improve electrical stimulation of nerves in the human retina, the brain, the limbs and other parts of the body.  As a test application, these new electronics would be used to restore sight in mice with retinal degeneration.  If successful, the bioinspired interconnects would allow victims of retinal diseases to see in greater detail and under more realistic lighting conditions compared to retinal implants using conventional interconnects.  By manipulating the optical properties so that fractal branches absorb light at different wavelengths, it might be possible to simulate color vision.  The ultimate goal is to restore vision to the point that recipients can read text and facial expressions, which are capabilities critical for functioning in society.  The developed interconnects could also address other neurological disorders, such as Parkinson’s disease and depression, and improve nerve connections to prosthetic limbs.

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