Polyimide micro-channel arrays for peripheral nerve regenerative implants
Lacour SP., Atta R., FitzGerald JJ., Blamire M., Tarte E., Fawcett J.
Mechanical guidance is one way in which regenerating axons can be directed towards an appropriate target. In this paper, we present the design and fabrication process of a three-dimensional (3D) device comprising a bundle of parallel micro-channels, which can be used as a 3D regenerative implant for peripheral nerve repair. The skeleton of the device is entirely made of flexible polyimide films. Gold micro-electrodes and micro-channels of photosensitive polyimide are patterned directly on polyimide substrates. After fabrication, the 2D electrode channel array is rolled into a 3D channel bundle fitting the peripheral nerve. The efficiency with which axons enter the 2D channel array was evaluated in vitro as a function of channel width, spacing and pitch. Axon outgrowth is maximised when micro-channels are wide (>30 μm), and when the array transparency (the channel width to pitch ratio) is at least 50%. To ensure the metallic electrodes remain functional in the rolled device, substrate thickness and micro-channel height must also be optimized to position the metal film in the neutral plane of the rolled structure. Electrodes embedded in the implant polyimide structure are robust to rolling. Their impedance at 1 kHz in Ringer solution is of the order of 1 MΩ on flat samples, and changes little when the same samples are rolled and inserted into 1.5 mm inner diameter tube. Such 3D, electrode channel devices on polymer not only provides a novel technological approach to physical guidance of regenerating neurons in vivo but also enables the fabrication of an electrode implant with direct electrical communication with multiple groups of nerve fibres in a regenerating peripheral nerve. © 2008 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.