Microelectrode arrays printed on gelatin and other soft materials

June 21, 2018 //By Christoph Hammerschmidt
Microelectrode arrays printed on gelatin and other soft materials
A joint research team of the Technical University of Munich (TUM) and the Research Centre Jülich has printed patterns onto gummy bears. A joke of underchallenged or bored scientists? Certainly not: What looks like gimmickry at first sight could change medical diagnostics.

On the one hand, the scientists around Prof. Bernhard Wolfrum did not print an image or lettering, but a microelectrode array. These components consist of a large number of electrodes and can measure changes in the electrical voltage in cells. These occur, for example, during the activity of nerve or muscle cells.

On the other hand, jelly babies have a property that is particularly important for the use of microelectrode arrays on living cells: They're soft. Microelectrode arrays have been around for a long time. In their original form, they are made of hard materials such as silicon. In contact with living cells, this results in various disadvantages. This is why the shape and fusion of cells change in the laboratory. They can cause inflammation in the body and impair the functioning of organs.

These problems can be avoided with electrode arrays on soft materials. Accordingly, intensive research is being conducted on them. Up to now, traditional methods have mostly been used, which are relatively lengthy and depend on costly special laboratories. "If you instead print the electrodes, you can produce a prototype comparatively quickly and inexpensively and revise it just as easily," says Bernhard Wolfrum, Professor of Neuroelectronics at TUM. "Such rapid prototyping allows completely new ways of working."

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