Foreign Body Reaction to Implanted Biomaterials and Its Impact in Nerve Neuroprosthetics

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Carnicer-Lombarte, Alejandro 
Chen, Shao-Tuan 
Malliaras, George G. 
Barone, Damiano G. 

The implantation of any foreign material into the body leads to the development of an inflammatory and fibrotic process—the foreign body reaction (FBR). Upon implantation into a tissue, cells of the immune system become attracted to the foreign material and attempt to degrade it. If this degradation fails, fibroblasts envelop the material and form a physical barrier to isolate it from the rest of the body. Long-term implantation of medical devices faces a great challenge presented by FBR, as the cellular response disrupts the interface between implant and its target tissue. This is particularly true for nerve neuroprosthetic implants—devices implanted into nerves to address conditions such as sensory loss, muscle paralysis, chronic pain, and epilepsy. Nerve neuroprosthetics rely on tight interfacing between nerve tissue and electrodes to detect the tiny electrical signals carried by axons, and/or electrically stimulate small subsets of axons within a nerve. Moreover, as advances in microfabrication drive the field to increasingly miniaturized nerve implants, the need for a stable, intimate implant-tissue interface is likely to quickly become a limiting factor for the development of new neuroprosthetic implant technologies. Here, we provide an overview of the material-cell interactions leading to the development of FBR. We review current nerve neuroprosthetic technologies (cuff, penetrating, and regenerative interfaces) and how long-term function of these is limited by FBR. Finally, we discuss how material properties (such as stiffness and size), pharmacological therapies, or use of biodegradable materials may be exploited to minimize FBR to nerve neuroprosthetic implants and improve their long-term stability.

Bioengineering and Biotechnology, foreign body reaction, nerve neuroprosthetics, neural implants, neural interface, peripheral nerve stimulation, biocompatibility
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Frontiers in Bioengineering and Biotechnology
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Frontiers Media S.A.