Fatigue-resistant hydrogel optical fibers enable peripheral nerve optogenetics during locomotion


We develop soft and stretchable fatigue-resistant hydrogel optical fibers that enable optogenetic modulation of peripheral nerves in naturally behaving animals during persistent locomotion. The formation of polymeric nanocrystalline domains within the hydrogels yields fibers with low optical losses of 1.07 dB cm−1, Young’s modulus of 1.6 MPa, stretchability of 200% and fatigue strength of 1.4 MPa against 30,000 stretch cycles. The hydrogel fibers permitted light delivery to the sciatic nerve, optogenetically activating hindlimb muscles in Thy1::ChR2 mice during 6-week voluntary wheel running assays while experiencing repeated deformation. The fibers additionally enabled optical inhibition of pain hypersensitivity in an inflammatory model in TRPV1::NpHR mice over an 8-week period. Our hydrogel fibers offer a motion-adaptable and robust solution to peripheral nerve optogenetics, facilitating the investigation of somatosensation.

Nature Methods
Siyuan Rao
Assistant Professor at UMass Amherst

Dr. Rao is a material engineer using her expertise in chemistry and biophysics to invent engineering tools for the study in neuroscience.

Atharva Sahasrabudhe
Atharva Sahasrabudhe
Graduate Student

Graduate student

Polina Anikeeva
Polina Anikeeva
Professor in Materials Science and Engineering
Professor in Brain and Cognitive Sciences
Associate Director, Research Laboratory of Electronics

My goal is to combine the current knowledge of biology and nanoelectronics to develop materials and devices for minimally invasive treatments for neurological and neuromuscular diseases.