Scientists have developed a nerve-on-a-chip platform that can stimulate and record from explanted nerve fibers, just as an implanted neuroprosthetic would. Their platform contains microchannels embedded with electrodes and explanted nerve fibers faithfully replicate the architecture, maturity and functioning of in vivo tissue.

The nerve-on-a-chip platform paves the way to using chips to improve neuroprosthetic designs. (Credit: Florent-Valéry Cohen)

The scientists tested their platform on explanted nerve fibers from rats’ spinal cords, trying out various strategies for stimulating and inhibiting neural activity. The nerve-on-a-chip platform can be manufactured in a cleanroom in two days and is able to rapidly record hundreds of nerve responses with a high signal-to-noise ratio. However, what really sets it apart is that it can record the activity of individual nerve cells.

The scientists also used their platform to improve the geometry and position of recording electrodes in order to develop an implant that can regenerate peripheral nerves. By running the measured neural data through a robust algorithm, they will be able to calculate the speed and direction of nerve impulse propagation — and therefore determine whether a given impulse comes from a sensory or motor nerve.

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