Sea Slugs Inspire New Brain Implant Technology

Findings could apply to people with Parkinson's and spinal cord injuries
By Laurel Jorgensen,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 7, 2008 7:17 AM CST
The sea cucumber has inspired scientists with its quick-change act.   (Earth Life Forms)
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(Newser) – Sure, it’s a warty creepy-crawly that lurks at the bottom of the ocean, but the sea cucumber has inspired scientists to create a new material that could be used in implanted brain electrodes to help people with Parkinson’s disease, reports the BBC. The creature stiffens its skin when faced with an enemy and reverts to its soft self just as easily. Scientists hope the new material, which mimics that variability, will remain hardened during implantation in a human brain, then soften in the body.

The still-unnamed material consists of naturally occurring nanofibres, or "whiskers," embedded in a polymer, according to a description in the journal Science. It softens in water, which is particularly important for use in the brain, which is 75% water. Researchers believe the implants could help stroke victims or people with Parkinson’s disease or spinal cord injuries more effectively than current devices because the implant would more closely resemble the soft tissue of the brain.