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Optoelectronic medicine - nerve cell regulation with light

Reference number
Project leader
Glowacki, Eric
Start and end dates
Amount granted
2 175 007 SEK
Administrative organization
Linköping University
Research area
Life Science Technology


Optical stimulation of the nervous system is ideally positioned to resolve many unmet challenges in biomedicine, owing to excellent spatial and temporal control and lack of complex and invasive electrodes. A nongenetic means of imparting long-term selective photosensitivity to electrophysiological processes is an idea with far-reaching potential in both fundamental neuroscience and applied medicine. We have recently developed optoelectronic device platforms for wireless neurostimulation which are ultrathin and minimally invasive and can be surgically implanted with a simple procedure that can be highly disruptive with respect to existing technologies. Our research aims at new neurostimulation bioelectronic medicine in three areas: 1) photocapacitive neurostimulation, 2) photodriven neurotransmitter release, and 3) on-demand light-induced generation of reactive oxygen species. This interdisciplinary approach at the nexus of microelectronics and biomedicine has the goal of commercializing wireless neurostimulation for peripheral nerve-based therapies as well as laying the foundation for future bioelectronic medicine technologies ranging in applications from epilepsy to cancer.

Popular science description

New organic device can influence the electrical properties of single cells and tissues with light, opening up an exciting and powerful opportunity for biomedical scientists in various fields, e.g., the stimulation of nerve cells. Eric Glowacki and his team from the Laboratory of Organic Electronics at the Linköping University, Sweden, can produce devices based on organic materials that control the electrical properties of single cells. These devices can replace traditional electrodes, is minimally invasive and works with no wires, or genetic engineering. The technology we are developing aims to be the simplest and most minimalistic technique for artificially stimulating nervous tissue. Wireless neurostimulation devices can allow us to communicate with the nervous system using the same kind of interconnects as we currently use for high-speed internet. Signals are transmitted via fibre optics as opposed to simple wires. The nervous system "speaks" the language of electrical signals, but we believe that the same logic as is used for telecommunications extends also to making the most efficient and noninvasive interconnects to the nervous system - light does it better. Near-infrared light can penetrate through skin, muscle, and bone, deep into the body. The wavelengths of light can even be completely imperceptible to the patient. Our optical interconnects can be used to produce bioelectronic medicine therapies. Bioelectronic medicine influences the body without the use of drugs but by using electrical impulses. With our light-based wireless technology, we aim to provide a solution for patients suffering from Crohn's disease via stimulation of the vegus nerve, as well as those suffering from spinal cord injuries by stimulation of the sciatic nerve. The findings produced by the group may extend to other applications of bioelectronic medicine, such as light-targeted killing of cancer cells.