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Smart Coatings: Advancing Neuroprosthetics Through Collaboration

Materials that are capable of adapting their properties dynamically to an external stimulus are called responsive or smart. Smart coating refers to the concept of coatings being able to sense their environment and make an appropriate response to that stimulus.

Abhishek Prasad, assistant professor in the College of Engineering’s Department of Biomedical Engineering is teaming up with University of Miami researchers to specifically examine the effects of smart coatings’ use of drug release to address neuroinflammation and blood brain barrier (BBB) disruption.

Prasad is working with Jean-Hubert Olivier, an assistant professor in the College of Arts and Sciences’ Department of Chemistry, to develop and test microelectrode arrays (MEAs) that feature smart coatings capable of releasing on-demand encapsulated drugs and peptide sequences, under specific chemical and electrical stimuli, designed to minimize inflammation and BBB-dysfunction.

“Our team will focus on the molecular and cellular effects of responsive smart coatings for drug release on brain tissue responses,” Prasad explains. “Further, we will provide design strategies to tackle challenges in electrical responsive materials to develop hydrogel coatings that respond to brain microenvironment.”

In doing so, the collaborative research project will demonstrate the effectiveness of hydrogel coated microelectrodes that will release drugs on-demand due to chemical or electrical stimuli over a long time period to reduce BBB leakage and reduce inflammation.

The collaborative project, titled “Smart Coating of Neural Electrodes for Closed-Loop On-Demand Drug Release,” is one of seven awards funded by the College of Engineering and the College of Arts and Sciences that focus on the topics related to the Frost Institute of Chemistry and Molecular Science (FICMS), the first of the Frost Institutes for Science and Engineering that will be housed in the new Phillip and Patricia Frost Science and Engineering Building.

The research project benefits from the strong collaboration between a chemist (Olivier) and a biomedical engineer (Prasad). Through widespread clinical application, their combined contributions to the development of neuroprosthetics and neurotechnology has the potential to improve the quality of life of individuals suffering from motor disabilities as a result of injuries and diseases of the nervous system.

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