Electroactive Materials for Neural Engineering Applications

Date(s) - 05/14/2012
10:30 am - 11:30 am

Dr. Christine Schmidt, Biomedical Engineering and Chemical Engineering, University of Texas at Austin

Damage to the brain, spinal cord and peripheral nerve tissue can have a devastating impact on the quality of life for individuals suffering from nerve injuries or neurological conditions. Our research is focused on analyzing and designing biomaterials that can interfere with neurons and specifically stimulate and/or guide axons to regenerate. In one approach, we are working with electrically conducting polymers that can stimulate cell growth and healing, or that can communicate with neurons directly. We have focused on modifications to the conducting polymer polypyrrole (PPy) as a means to impart features that are attractive for biomedical applications (e.g., neural probes, microelectrodes, regeneration templates). To do this, we are addressing two of the key challenges that limit the use of PPy in vivo: (1) the incorporation of bioactive factors while retaining good electrical conductivity and (2) the improvement of the handling properties of PPy so that it can be formed into various structures, including elastic and porous 3D scaffolds. Our research highlights efforts to improve PPy’s biological and physical properties for a number of biomedical applications. PPy and conducting polymers in general are attractive biomaterials, and indeed, these polymers, unlike any other materials, can provide physical, chemical/biological, and electrical signaling to regenerating cells and tissues.