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Tuesday / July 16.
HomeminewsBio-Inks Key to Disease Cure

Bio-Inks Key to Disease Cure

Clever bio-inks that sit inside the human body and restore damaged neurons could cure a whole swathe of eye diseases in the next 20 years, according to a researcher from the University of South Australia (UniSA).

Materials engineer, Associate Professor Matthew Griffith said incurable diseases of the eye – along with other chronic conditions such as deafness, chronic pain, epilepsy, motor neurone disease, and Parkinson’s disease – are all linked to misfiring neurons that humans have not been able to control.

However, new technology being developed by Dr Griffith and his team at UniSA’s Future Industries Institute could fix these obstacles and offer hope to billions of people around the world.

A LANGUAGE THE BODY UNDERSTANDS

The researchers are creating carbon-based biocompatible inks printed into soft flexible devices that can be surgically implanted, electronically communicating with the neural network on demand.

“The aim is to reprogram injury and diseases out of existence by printing cheap, electronic devices that can talk to our bodies in a language it understands,” Dr Griffith said.

“Damaged or misfiring neurons have catastrophic consequences, resulting in blindness, paralysis, and a whole host of neurological disorders that we have not been able to cure.

“We believe we can change this by developing clever, organic electronic inks, which we can 3D print into flexible devices that are able to talk to neurons, grow new nerve cells, and create artificial neural interfaces.”

Current technologies being deployed for neurological conditions and blindness include deep brain stimulation and artificial retinas. However, they have had limited success because the electrodes are made from hard, inflexible materials like metals and silicone that have poor biocompatibility.

Around three billion people suffer from neurological conditions worldwide; another 200 million are blind; and one in five people live with chronic pain. All are related to neurons misfiring, resulting in undesirable changes to the brain, senses, and behaviour.

A 10-YEAR PATH

Assoc Prof Griffith estimated that it would be another five to 10 years “until we’re into clinical trials and we have health clinical proof of concept”.

In the meantime, to help guide their research, he and his team are talking to patients affected by these disorders, and a lot of clinicians trying to treat them.

“What we are all excited about as we work together on this journey is the potential to cure these diseases for the first time in human history,” he said.

A video explaining the technology can be viewed at: youtu.be/3mDpXosDTdQ.