The breakthrough happened just recently. An innovative recording and stimulation system has been successfully launched on the market for neuro-electrophysiological devices used in basic research. The system was developed by scientists from the Natural and Medical Sciences Institute (NMI) in Tübingen together with engineers from the Technical University of Berlin. The so-called CMOS-MEA5000 is produced and distributed by the Reutlingen based company Multi Channel Systems.
The core of the system is a highly efficient neurochip, which allows to record and to stimulate the communication between nerve cells very fast and with ultimate precision. And so it works: the system films the activity of the nerve cells – like a camera chip of a smartphone, but one thousand times faster. Up to 5000 capacitive coupling electrodes read out the signals of the nerve cells from the chip. The signals are amplified by integrated transistors every microsecond and with a solution of one micrometer exactly.
“This highly accurate insight into living nerve cells opens new ways of application in fields like Bio-electronic Medicine, Biotechnology and Brain Research”, explained Dr. Günther Zeck, head of the research group Neurochip at NMI.
Furthermore, up to 1000 sites can be stimulated by the neurochip, if the recorded signals from neural networks show a disordered pattern. The data analysis recovers how associated cells or single cells respond to electrical long-term stimulation or to long-term application of pharmaceuticals. The use of CMOS-MEA5000 could help to unravel the disturbed neural communication underlying neurological and neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson disease, Alzheimer disease, depression and some kinds of blindness. The market access of the new system is a fine example of successful interaction between basic research and technology transfer. In this special case, the story started with investigations by Professor Peter Frommherz at the Max Planck Institute in Martinsried (Germany), and in cooperation with Infineon in 2003. Later on the know-how has been conferred to NMI in order to develop a market-ready device together with its partners.