Chronic tissue response to untethered microelectrode implants in the rat brain and spinal cord

Ali Ersen, Stella Elkabes, David S. Freedman, Mesut Sahin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

49 Scopus citations


Objective. Microelectrodes implanted in the central nervous system (CNS) often fail in long term implants due to the immunological tissue response caused by tethering forces of the connecting wires. In addition to the tethering effect, there is a mechanical stress that occurs at the device-tissue interface simply because the microelectrode is a rigid body floating in soft tissue and it cannot reshape itself to comply with changes in the surrounding tissue. In the current study we evaluated the scar tissue formation to tetherless devices with two signi ficantly different geometries in the rat brain and spinal cord in order to investigate the effects of device geometry. Approach. One of the implant geometries resembled the wireless, floating microstimulators that we are currently developing in our laboratory and the other was a (shank only) Michigan probe for comparison. Both electrodes were implanted into either the cervical spinal cord or the motor cortices, one on each side. Main results. The most pronounced astroglial and microglial reactions occurred within 20 innodatamum from the device and decreased sharply at larger distances. Both cell types displayed the morphology of non-activated cells past the 100 innodatamum perimeter. Even though the aspect ratios of the implants were different, the astroglial and microglial responses to both microelectrode types were very mild in the brain, stronger and yet limited in the spinal cord. Significance. These observations confirm previous reports and further suggest that tethering may be responsible for most of the tissue response in chronic implants and that the electrode size has a smaller contribution with floating electrodes. The electrode size may be playing primarily an amplifying role to the tethering forces in the brain whereas the size itself may induce chronic response in the spinal cord where the movement of surrounding tissues is more significant.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number016019
JournalJournal of neural engineering
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 1 2015

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Biomedical Engineering
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience


  • Astroglial and microglial response
  • Floating microstimulators
  • Optical stimulation
  • Wire interconnects


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