Researchers from Harvard Medical School and MIT developed a highly flexible, biocompatible fiber out of hydrogel, a rubbery material that is mostly water. It is envisioned that the devices could be implanted in the human body, including the brain, and move within the surrounding tissue. The fibers carry light, and so could be used to light up when disease is detected or to direct therapeutic pulses of light at anomalies.
The field of optogenetics – using pulses of light to stimulate cells – is active, an MIT News report explains. Stimulating brain neurons with light has shown promise, as a way of manipulating the body’s circadian rhythms, and stimulating other cells in this way may be a key to reversing blindness or managing pain, News Atlas reports, even for treating depression.
However, carrying light within the body has often been done using hard, glasslike fibers that can damage human tissue, including the delicate human brain.