January 22, 2009

Stretchable electrodes are developed

U.S. engineers say they've created stretchable electrodes to study how cells react to stresses caused by heart attacks, brain injuries and diseases.

Purdue University and Stanford University researchers said their devices are made by injecting a liquid alloy consisting of indium and gallium into thin microchannels between two sheets of a plastic polymer. Cell cultures are then grown on top of the new stretchable cell culture platform.

We designed a simple and cost-effective process for fabricating these stretchable platforms, said Purdue University Associate Professor Babak Ziaie, working with Stanford Assistant Professor Beth Pruitt.

What's special about this technology is that it allows you to electrically stimulate or monitor the cell population using electrodes while you are applying stress to the cells.

The stretching, said the scientists, produces mechanical stresses such as those exerted on tissues during heart attacks and traumatic brain injuries.

You cannot stretch solid metal beyond a few percent because it will break, but we've been able to stretch these liquid platforms more than 40 percent of their original size, Ziaie said.

The research that included Pinghung Wei, Rebecca Taylor, Zhenwen Ding, Gadryn Higgs and James Norman is to be presented Monday in Sorrento, Italy, during the 22nd IEEE International Conference on Micro Electro Mechanical Systems.