The Max Planck Society (MPG) is going to transfer its know-how in neurochip technology to Reutlingen. The Reutlingen-based NMI and its partners are set to develop the technology into a versatile product and measurement tool.
Neurochips couple the electrical activities of neurons with those of computer chips. They can be seeded with living neurons and neural tissue to measure their signals. In addition, they can also transmit signals to the neurons. These capabilities open up new perspectives for measurement systems and the investigation of neuronal function. In cooperation with the former research department of Infineon Technologies AG, Prof. Dr. Peter Fromherz at the Max Planck Institute (MPI) of Biochemistry in Martinsried has developed a unique neurochip with 16,384 sensory transistors on an area of just one square millimetre. The knowledge and development know-how gained in this project (published in 2006) are now being transferred to the NMI in Reutlingen in order to further develop the neurochip technology.Infineon abandoned its neurochip activities during the reorganisation of the company four years ago and Fromherz is to retire in 2010. As a result, the MPG’s Scientific Council called on the MPG to secure and commericalise the technology. Moreover, the German BMBF has also recognised the far-reaching importance of neurochips, which is why it supports the transfer of the neurochip know-how to a group of experts in Reutlingen and their partners. It is hoped the transfer will maintain and expand Germany’s outstanding international position in the field of neurochip technology. In cooperation with Prof. Dr. Roland Thewes from the TU Berlin, Reutlingen-based Multi Channel Systems MCS GmbH is developing the chip into a powerful measurement system for applications in basic neurophysiological research. In addition, a group of junior researchers at the NMI led by Dr. Günther Zeck is investigating the application potential of chip technology in the field of neurophysiological research, neurotechnical micromedicine as well as in cell-based and cell-free biotechnology.“Reutlingen is an ideal location for turning the technology into a product,” said Dr. Alfred Stett, Deputy Managing Director of the NMI. The NMI and MCS are working closely together and are worldwide leaders in the development of microelectrode arrays (MEAs) and other measurement systems based on MEA technology. This technology is already used in more than 500 laboratories worldwide to record and analyse electrical signals of retina, nerve and heart preparations as well as of differentiated stem cells. MEA is mainly used for basic research, but is increasingly used in the early drug development stages and safety pharmacology. “Neurochips expand the experimental possibilities considerably because of their excellent ability to sense the activity of neurons and stimulate the cells,” said Stett, quite pleased with the opportunity of including the neurochip technology into the NMI’s current research portfolio.
Dr. Nadja GugelerPublic RelationsTel.: +49 (0)7121 51530 842E-mail: gugeler(at)nmi.de