A hydrogel-based microfluidic nerve cuff for neuromodulation of peripheral nerves

Raviraj Thakur, Felix P. Aplin, Gene Y. Fridman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Implantable neuromodulation devices typically have metal in contact with soft, ion-conducting nerves. These neural interfaces excite neurons using short-duration electrical pulses. While this approach has been extremely successful for multiple clinical applications, it is limited in delivering long-duration pulses or direct current (DC), even for acute term studies. When the charge injection capacity of electrodes is exceeded, irreversible electrochemical processes occur, and toxic byproducts are discharged directly onto the nerve, causing biological damage. Hydrogel coatings on electrodes improve the overall charge injection limit and provide a mechanically pliable interface. To further extend this idea, we developed a silicone-based nerve cuff lead with a hydrogel microfluidic conduit. It serves as a thin, soft and flexible interconnection and provides a greater spatial separation between metal electrodes and the target nerve. In an in vivo rat model, we used this cuff to stimulate and record from sciatic nerves, with performance comparable to that of metal electrodes. Further, we delivered DC through the lead in an acute manner to induce nerve block that is reversible. In contrast to most metallic cuff electrodes, which need microfabrication equipment, we built this cuff using a consumer-grade digital cutter and a simplified molding process. Overall, the device will be beneficial to neuromodulation researchers as a general-purpose nerve cuff electrode for peripheral neuromodulation experiments.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number1522
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2021


  • Bioelectronics
  • Direct current nerve block
  • Nerve cuff electrode
  • Neural electrode
  • Neural interface
  • Peripheral nerve stimulation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Mechanical Engineering
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering
  • Control and Systems Engineering


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