Swiss company's newly developed chip provides imaging much easier

Its technology can connect to thousands of cells at the same time and process bio-signals at 20,000 frames per second.
Nergis Firtina
Expanding brain biology to information technology
Expanding brain biology to information technology

Hakule/iStock 

A 3D microchip made by a Swiss company will allow scientists to study the complexity of 3D cellular networks.

This 3D chip will help to observe complex structures such as the human brain, according to a report published by Labiotech. EU on Tuesday.

Understanding how organs form and how their cells behave is essential to finding the causes and treatment for developmental disorders, as well as understanding certain diseases, said 3Brain.

3Brain collaborated with the Swiss Center for Electronics and Microtechnology (CSEM) — a Swiss private, non-profit research and technology organization with more than 35 years of Deep Tech development experience — to make the 3D technology.

3Brain has worked to integrate microchip technology into science for over 15 years.

Swiss company's newly developed chip provides imaging much easier
A newly produced chip will make imaging easier.

20,000 frames per second

3Brain claims that its technology can connect to thousands of cells at the same time and process bio-signals at 20,000 frames per second in a spatially resolved pixel array, not unlike an ultra-high-speed HD camera, thereby effectively expanding the concept of label-free functional imaging beyond optical approaches.

The company also suggests that cell-electronic interfaces like patch clamps and, more recently, high-density multi-electrode arrays are limited to 2D and suffer many limitations when it comes to measuring 3D model systems like brain organoids or tissues.

3Brain worked to develop a cell-electronic interface based on complementary metal-oxide semiconductor technology to overcome these challenges.

Meet Accura - 3D

The 3D CMOS microchip (named Accura-3D) is equipped with sensory gold electrodes mounted on thousands of biopolymer-covered microneedles.

Mauro Gandolfo, CEO, and co-founder of 3Brain AG said: “What we want is to empower researchers to ask new and daring biological questions that have so far been impossible to investigate.

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“Our cell-electronic interfaces expand the concept of optics-free functional imaging, all without the need for biological markers, fluorescent proteins, or genetic manipulation of cellular networks. With Accura-3D, we created a first-in-class solution that can directly access the complex cytoarchitecture of 3D tissues and brain organoids," he added.

Heavy lifting with on-chip processing

“The biggest challenges are taking the vast amounts of data coming from cells and processing them without losing critical information in real-time. Accura-3D does a lot of the heavy lifting with on-chip processing, signal amplification, and noise filtering, which makes the chip itself intelligent," Gandolfo explained.

“We are very attentive to the opportunities offered by advanced cell models such as spheroids and organoids," said Alessandro Maccione, CSO and co-founder of 3Brain AG.

"We already have results showing that Accura-3D is vastly superior in measuring physiologically relevant cells and biosignals."

Studying on complex structures

3Brain's chips work in vitro cell cultures and ex vivo tissues, but not in vivo or on patients. The chips are not to be implanted in brains, nor are they part of brain-machine interfaces. However, it will become easier to study complex structures such as the brain.

“We started focusing on brain organoids because of their relevance to model devastating developmental and neurodegenerative diseases of the brain that pose a high burden for our society, for example, Alzheimer’s and epilepsy," said Maccione.

"Scientifically, Accura-3D is super exciting, because it will allow us to peek deeper into the inner workings of tissues and organoids and ask questions previously out of reach. Why, where, and how does spontaneous activity emerge in brain organoids and how do coordinated brain waves start?"

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