Skip to main content

Injectable electrodes may help treat everything from chronic pain to depression

Biomedical Engineering Professor Kip Ludwig explains neuromodulation

A novel drug-free treatment for health conditions ranging from chronic pain to epileptic seizures or depression could be on the horizon — and it involves injectable electrodes.

From 3D-printed prostheses to burgers grown in science labs to smarter mobility for the elderly or infirm, tech improves our lives every day in a million ways beyond simply making things more convenient. Tech can have a meaningful impact — that’s why we call it Tech for Change. Here are the companies and people fighting to make a difference.
Tech for Change

The concept builds on the technique of electrically stimulating nerves. This kind of neuromodulation treatment is already in service in today’s hospitals. It works by altering nerve activity through targeted electrical stimulation. While this has been shown to be effective, however, the treatment also poses problems. Specifically, surgically implanted devices can be expensive, require complex procedures to install, and are prone to failing due to the challenge of getting rigid devices to interact with the body’s soft biological tissues.

The new approach — referred to as “injectrodes” by its creators — involves electrodes injected into the body as a liquid. The injectrodes are made from a silicone base, similar to a surgical sealant, infused with small metal particles to make the liquid conductive. Once injected, the material then cures inside the body, establishing a new kind of neural interface system.

Neuronoff, Inc.

“The envisioned patient experience is an outpatient procedure that begins with a local numbing of the intended injection location with an anesthetic agent such as lidocaine,” Manfred Franke, co-founder and CEO of Neuronoff, the company set up to commercialize the technology, told Digital Trends. “Using ultrasound or fluoroscopy to visualize the local anatomy, the physician places the injectrode via needle injection onto, into, or around the anatomical area of interest. This may be a nerve or it may be other tissues that the physician wants to apply energy to, such as electrical stimulation of nerves or currents to ablate certain tissues within the body. Once the injectrode material is placed into the body, it undergoes a transformation from its initial liquid, or moldable, form to a solid form within the body, essentially curing in-vivo. Around a week later, the patient would then return to receive the treatment, using an external signal generator unit to deliver the desired electrical signal to the intended target.”

The approach has already been put through chronic preclinical tests. “Our team is working diligently to get this technology out to patients as quickly as possible,” said Andrew Shoffstall. “The team recently received a $2.2m grant from the HEAL program at the National Institutes of Health. This work will greatly increase our ability to validate the safety and efficacy of the technology before we move into clinical trials.”

A paper describing the work was recently published in the journal Advanced Healthcare Materials.

Luke Dormehl
I'm a UK-based tech writer covering Cool Tech at Digital Trends. I've also written for Fast Company, Wired, the Guardian…
AI turned Breaking Bad into an anime — and it’s terrifying
Split image of Breaking Bad anime characters.

These days, it seems like there's nothing AI programs can't do. Thanks to advancements in artificial intelligence, deepfakes have done digital "face-offs" with Hollywood celebrities in films and TV shows, VFX artists can de-age actors almost instantly, and ChatGPT has learned how to write big-budget screenplays in the blink of an eye. Pretty soon, AI will probably decide who wins at the Oscars.

Within the past year, AI has also been used to generate beautiful works of art in seconds, creating a viral new trend and causing a boon for fan artists everywhere. TikTok user @cyborgism recently broke the internet by posting a clip featuring many AI-generated pictures of Breaking Bad. The theme here is that the characters are depicted as anime characters straight out of the 1980s, and the result is concerning to say the least. Depending on your viewpoint, Breaking Bad AI (my unofficial name for it) shows how technology can either threaten the integrity of original works of art or nurture artistic expression.
What if AI created Breaking Bad as a 1980s anime?
Playing over Metro Boomin's rap remix of the famous "I am the one who knocks" monologue, the video features images of the cast that range from shockingly realistic to full-on exaggerated. The clip currently has over 65,000 likes on TikTok alone, and many other users have shared their thoughts on the art. One user wrote, "Regardless of the repercussions on the entertainment industry, I can't wait for AI to be advanced enough to animate the whole show like this."

Read more
4 simple pieces of tech that helped me run my first marathon
Garmin Forerunner 955 Solar displaying pace information.

The fitness world is littered with opportunities to buy tech aimed at enhancing your physical performance. No matter your sport of choice or personal goals, there's a deep rabbit hole you can go down. It'll cost plenty of money, but the gains can be marginal -- and can honestly just be a distraction from what you should actually be focused on. Running is certainly susceptible to this.

A few months ago, I ran my first-ever marathon. It was an incredible accomplishment I had no idea I'd ever be able to reach, and it's now going to be the first of many I run in my lifetime. And despite my deep-rooted history in tech, and the endless opportunities for being baited into gearing myself up with every last product to help me get through the marathon, I went with a rather simple approach.

Read more
This bracelet helps you fall asleep faster and sleep longer
woman-in-bed-wearing-twilight-apollo-on-ankle

This content was produced in partnership with Apollo Neuroscience.
Have you been struggling to get the recommended seven hours of sleep? It's always frustrating when you get in bed at a reasonable time, then toss and turn for a hours before you actually sleep. The quality of that sleep is important too. If you're waking up multiple times during the night, you're likely not getting the quality REM cycle sleep that truly rejuvenates your body. If traditional remedies like herbal teas and noise machines just aren't helping, maybe it's time to try a modern solution. Enter the Apollo wearable.

Now we understand being a little skeptical. How can a bracelet on your wrist or ankle affect your sleep patterns? Certainly the answer to a better night's sleep can't be so simple. We considered these same things when we first heard of it. We'll dive deeper into the science behind the Apollo wearable, but suffice it to say that many people have experienced deeper, uninterrupted sleep while wearing one.
A non-conventional approach to better sleep

Read more