Electrical interfacing with neural tissue poses significant problems due to host response to the material. This response generally leads to fibrous encapsulation and increased impedance across the electrode. In neural electrodes such as cochlear implants, an elastomeric material like silicone is used as an insulator for the metal electrode. This project ultimately aims to produce a polymer electrode with elastomeric mechanical properties, metal like conductivity and capability. The approach taken was to produce a nanocomposite elastomeric material based on polyurethane (PU) and carbon nanotubes. Carbon nanotubes are ideal due to their high aspect ratio as well as being a ballistic conductor. The choice of PU is based on its elastomeric properties, processability and biocompatibility. Multi-walled nanotubes (MWNTs) were dispersed ultrasonically in various dispersive solutions before being added at up to 20wt% to a 5wt% PU (Pellethane80A) in Dimethylacetamide (DMAc). Films were then solvent cast in a vacuum oven overnight. The resulting films were tested for conductivity using a two-probe technique and mechanically tested using an Instron tensiometer. The percolation threshold (p) of the PU/MWNT films occurred at loadings of between 7 and 10 wt% in this polymer system. Conductivity of the films (above p) was comparable to those for similar systems reported in the literature at up to approximately 7x10<sup>-2</sup> Scm<sup>-1</sup>. Although PU stiffness increased with increased %loading of nanotubes, all composites were highly flexible and maintained elastomeric properties. From these preliminary results we have demonstrated electrical conductivity. So far it is evident that a superior percolation threshold is dependent on the degree of dispersion of the nanotubes. This has prompted work into investigating other preparations of the films, including melt-processing and electrospinning.
<i>Background</i>. Laser tissue soldering (LTS) is an alternative technique to suturing for tissue repair. One of the major drawbacks of LTS is the weak tensile strength of the solder welds when compared to sutures. In this study, the possibility was investigated for a low cytotoxic crosslinker, acting on amino groups, to enhance the bond strength of albumin solders. <i>Materials and Methods</i>. Solder strips were welded onto rectangular sections of sheep small intestine by a diode laser. The laser delivered in continuous mode mode a power of 170 ± 10 mW at λ=808 nm, through a multimode optical fiber (core size = 200 μm) to achieve a dose of 10.8 ± 0.5 J/mg. The solder thickness and surface area were kept constant throughout the experiment (thickness = 0.15 ± 1 mm, area = 12 ± 1.2 mm<sup>2</sup>). The solder incorporated 62% bovine serum albumin, 0.38% genipin, 0.25% indocyanin green dye (IG) and water. Tissue welding was also performed with a similar solder, which did not incorporate genipin, as a control group. The repaired tissue was tested for tensile strength by a calibrated tensiometer. <i>Results</i>. The tensile strength of the “genipin” solder was twice as high as the strength of the BSA solder (0.21 ± 0.04 N and 0.11 ± 0.04 N respectively; p~10<sup>-15</sup> unpaired t-test, N=30). <i>Discussion</i>. Addition of a chemical crosslinking agent, such as genipin, significantly increased the tensile strength of adhesive-tissue bonds. A proposed mechanism for this enhanced bond strength is the synergistic action of mechanical adhesion with chemical crosslinking by genipin.
In this study, a two layer (TL) solid solder was developed with a fixed thickness to minimize the difference in temperature across the solder (ΔT) and to weld at low temperature. Solder strips comprising two layers (65% albumin, 35% water) were welded onto rectangular sections of dog small intestine by a diode laser (λ = 808 nm). The laser delivered a power of 170 ± 10 mW through an optical fiber (spot size approximately 1 mm) for 100 seconds. A solder layer incorporated also a dye (carbon black, 0.25%) to absorb the laser radiation. A thermocouple and an infrared thermometer system recorded the temperatures at the tissue interface and at the external solder surface, during welding. The repaired tissue was tested for tensile strength by a calibrated tensiometer. The TL strips were able to minimize ΔT (12 ± 4°C) and control the temperature at tissue-interface. The strips fused on tissue at 55≤T≤62°C had higher tensile strength than the strips soldered at 51≤T<55°C (19.1 ± 6.6 versus 13.1 ± 6.4 gmf). The solid solder could efficiently weld at 60°C as it became insoluble and formed stable bonds with tissue. Fluid albumin solders, by contrast, requires temperatures ≥70°C for tissue repair, which cause more irreversible thermal damage.