Grant awarded - Horizon 2020 - Future Emerging Technologies

Developing a novel route for normalizing the cell activity in brain disorders, such epilepsy and Parkinson's disease. This is the "neuro-technological" vision of IN-FET, a project just awarded with €3'370'000 by the European Commission and coordinated by Michele Giugliano, director of the Neuronal Dynamics Lab at SISSA.

Today's announcement concerns the "Future Emerging Technologies (FET) Open" programme of the Horizon 2020 funding scheme, where proposals were sought for cutting-edge high-risk / high-impact interdisciplinary research. 
The international and multidisciplinary research consortium built by Giugliano, involves SISSA, IBM research, Geneva and Sheffield universities, and the Italian University Nanotelectronics Consortium, and it brings together state-of-the-art electrochemistry, 3-d nanofabrication, nanoelectronics, neurobiology, neuronal biophysics to device modeling. All these researchers will closely collaborate together towards an ambitious paradigm shift in the domains of neurotechnology and neuro-modulation.
Today's cutting edge experimental therapies for restoring or repairing brain functions in neural disorders often involve modulating or silencing "hyper active" brain circuits. This takes place by pharmacological or genetic manipulations, or by delivering electrical, magnetic, or optical stimuli to the brain. All of them, however, come with serious drawbacks, due to the unnatural means to regulate the activity of nerve cells. 
The idea of IN-FET arose from realizing that nerve cells operate and communicate by means ions, through which bioelectrical impulses are emitted and exchanged. Ions are thus the elementary building blocks of the brain electrical activity, so that precisely manipulating ions enables modulating the brain circuits. IN-FET tackles this basic principle by developing novel implantable devices able to directly alter the concentrations of common ions, such as magnesium, potassium, and calcium at the microscopic scale. A similar ionic "actuation" is made possible by the recent progresses in electro-activated polymers, increasingly common in a novel generation of electronic batteries, but used here to trap or release specific ions in the milieu surrounding neurons. 
Through IN-FET, benefits and progresses in future brain implants for epilepsy treatment, fundamental neuroscience, biomedical microsystems engineering, and nano-neurotechnology are expected. IN-FET thus addresses all the essential characteristics of the FET programme, represented by a "radical vision", a "breakthrough technological target", and by an "ambitious interdisciplinary research" dimension.

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