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Substrates for culturing and stimulating neural cells

Country of Origin: Italy
Reference Number: TOIT20210428001
Publication Date: 28 April 2021


An Italian research group has patented a substrate comprising a textured surface with a plurality of protrusions and a bulk portion, for promoting neural cell network growth in vitro and/or ex-vivo, for a culturing method and for complex neural cell 5 network reconstruction. The invention also includes a stimulation device and a monitor device comprising the substrate and their uses. They are looking for financial, joint venture or licence agreements.


This technology offer is the result of a project based and inspired by the activity devoted to the development of a new generation of sensors and electrodes based on nanotechnology materials of neural interfacing. The project aimed in designing and fabricating a prototype of an active implant that could work directly at the spinal-cord level, something that is not possible with the present technology. This implant will allow restoring the transmission of electrical signals in injured axon tracks of the spinal cord, acting ad a local bypass. This technology offers a novel perspective and is complementary to, but independent from, present neural regenerative techniques under investigation. Due to some limitations, electrodes are currently placed at the brain to detected electric potentials, or at the muscles to trigger functional electrical stimulation (FES). Technology originated from the exploration the group did about the use of electrodes coated with a variety of nanowire for improve electrical stimulation capabilities. The research proved that the nano-structure of these electrodes can offer an enhanced adhesion as well as efficiency when compared to conventional FES electrodes. From this background originated the idea of innovative substrates for supporting cell growth and allowing cell stimulation. The main object of the project is to develop a cost-effective, easy to use substrate that will promote cell growth and interfacing within a cell or tissue culture, in particular guiding network growth. In contrast with the substrates known in the art, the use of the substrate of the invention wherein its textured surface has a plurality of protrusions, it presents improved interaction with cells and allows the growing of active cell cultures on it. Moreover, the use of the substrate of the invention, in particular its textured surface, provide cultured cells with mechanical cues and play an important role to direct cellular functions and tissue organization. In addition, the substrate of the present invention is bio-compatible. 
In order to exploit the research results, they are looking for financial, joint venture or licence agreements to be established with pharma companies/Investors interested in acquiring and co-developing the technology.

Advantages and Innovations

The invention is characterized by the following innovative aspects:

a) A polymeric surface is nanostructured via hot-pressing procedure: this would result in a low cost, easily up-scalable, approach to surface nanostructuration. Low-throughput, hig-cost, nanolithography is avoided. As a consequence of that this innovative invention could be effectively translated to new or already existing industrial products;
b) The presence of nano/micro pillars above the surface induces the formation of a suspended flat network of cells that, although bidimensionally organized, feel the surrounding extracellular environment from any direction (included from the buttom), a condition closing resembling a three-dimensional system. This is the more innovative aspect of the invention giving the possibility to mimic an effective 3D cellular organization using low-cost, highly controllable, 2D substrates;
c) The same fabrication procedure could be used with or without use of carbon nano-tubes obtaining, with the latter approach, a conductive, nano-structured, substrate: this will open the possibility to electrically stimulate cellular networks developed interfaced with our devices.

Stage Of Development

Under development/lab tested

Stage Of Development Comment

The project has being developed by an Italian research center in collaboration with a Spanish research center.  Further developments are expected in the coming months also depending on the identification of appropriate partnership.

Requested partner

Pharma Companies/Investors interested in acquiring and co-developing the technology.

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