Researchers from the Technical University of Munich have succeeded in printing microelectrode arrays into soft substances – and to start, with the gummy candies. Microelectrodes are used to detect and measure electrical signals in the brain and heart.
Microelectrodes consist of hard materials like silicon which can affect the shape and organization of the living cells when imposed, and even worse it could trigger inflammation or loss of organ functionalities. Luckily, imposing electrode arrays onto the cells greatly reduced or nullified the risks of any damage. Most initiatives implementing the same use the traditional time-consuming methods that require access to expensive specialized laboratories – making healthcare deary.
But thanks to Bernard Wolfrum, Professor of Neuroelectronics at TUM and his team for being able to successfully deposit the microelectrodes on the chewy sugar treats by “printing”. The array was printed onto the gummies using a high-tech version of an inkjet printer with carbon-based ink-contains a multitude of electrodes. Printing these electrode arrays did not just break open the inexpensive ways of attaching electrodes, but it is also proven to produce reliable measurements – with an average width of 30 micrometers they permit measurements on a single cell or just a few cells.
“If you instead print the electrodes, you can produce a prototype relatively quickly…Rapid prototyping of this kind enables us to work in entirely new ways,” says Prof. Wolfrum. “In the future, similar soft structures could be used to monitor nerve or heart functions in the body…or even serve as a pacemaker.”