Project Image:
Title of the project:
Autonomous neurochemical implant
Development of an artificial stimulating synapse for functional stimulation of retinal neurons in photoreceptor degeneration.
Project funding:
  • Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung (BMBF)
Project management:
  • VDI/VDE Innovation+Technik GmbH
Funding reference number:

Autonomous neurochemical implants (ANI) could assume the function of an artificial synapse in the nervous system by a targeted and controllable release of the neurotransmitter glutamate. The functional principle of the "glutamate switch" will be developed in a feasibility study on the retina and here on the synapses of the photoreceptor cells.
The long-term perspective of ANI is to implement the switching principle with various neurotransmitters in order to address damaged neuronal circuits in the entire nervous system.


Current research activities in medical technology focus on the in vivo replacement of inoperable parts of biological systems by integrated, inorganic electrical prostheses. However, the process of electrical stimulation is not very specific for them, since all cell types and signaling pathways in the vicinity of the electrodes are stimulated. In addition, the administration of electrical impulses over a longer period of time can possibly lead to tissue damage. In contrast, a "neurochemical" implant has the advantage that it directly controls the release of the physiological neurotransmitter and thus selectively and physiologically stimulates the postsynaptic cells.

The aim of our project is the development and realization of such an autonomous neurochemical implant in the retina, which as an inorganic/organic system takes over the function of degenerated photoreceptors and uses the still existing specific signal processing within the retinal network for signal transmission to the brain.

Our approach is based on the combination of polymers with inorganic materials in a hybrid system for the targeted manipulation of neuronal circuits after neuronal damage. It is a novel biotechnological approach with a broad application spectrum in clinical research that goes beyond the state of the art.  
Compared to inorganic implants, which are based on electrical stimulation of the nerve tissue, a combined organic/inorganic approach offers the advantage of physiological and specific stimulation of neuronal structures, so that a higher specificity and signal resolution can be expected from the neurochemical implant.

Project partners:
  • AG Energie- und Halbleiterforschung, Universität Oldenburg
  • AG Neurobiologie, Universität Oldenburg
  • Forschungsinstitut für Augenheilkunde, Universität Tübingen
  • Institut für heterogene Materialsysteme, Helmholtz-Zentrum Berlin