Biological and Medicinal Chemistry

Modular Integration of Hydrogel Neural Interfaces


Thermal drawing has been recently leveraged to yield multi-functional, fiber-based neural probes at near kilometer length scales. Despite its promise, the widespread adoption of this approach has been impeded by (1) material compatibility requirements and (2) labor-intensive interfacing of functional features to external hardware. Furthermore, in multifunctional fibers, significant volume is occupied by passive polymer cladding that so far has only served structural or electrical insulation purposes. In this letter, we report a rapid, robust, and modular approach to creating multi-functional fiber-based neural interfaces using a solvent evaporation or entrapment driven (SEED) integration process. This process brings together electrical, optical, and microfluidic modalities all encased within a co-polymer comprised of water-soluble poly(ethylene glycol) tethered to water-insoluble poly(urethane) (PU-PEG). We employ these devices for simultaneous optogenetics and electrophysiology, and demonstrate that multi-functional neural probes can be used to deliver cellular cargo with high viability. Upon exposure to water, PU-PEG cladding spontaneously forms a hydrogel, which in addition to enabling integration of modalities, can harbor small molecules and nanomaterials that can be released into local tissue following implantation. We also synthesized a custom nanodroplet forming block polymer and demonstrated that embedding such materials within the hydrogel cladding of our probes enables delivery of hydrophobic small molecules in vitro and in vivo. Our approach widens the chemical toolbox and expands the capabilities of multi-functional neural interfaces.


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Supplementary material

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