The microfluidic ion pump: a new tool for understanding the brain

Award Number
Status / Stage
16 March 2020 -
15 March 2025
Duration (calculated)
04 years 11 months
Funding Amount
Funder/Grant study page
Contracted Centre
University of Cambridge
Principal Investigator
Dr Christopher Proctor
PI Contact
WHO Catergories
Understanding Underlying Disease
Disease Type
Dementia (Unspecified)

CPEC Review Info
Reference ID716
ResearcherReside Team


Award NumberBB/T009314/1
Status / StageActive
Start Date20200316
End Date20250315
Duration (calculated) 04 years 11 months
Funder/Grant study pageBBSRC UKRI
Contracted CentreUniversity of Cambridge
Funding Amount£1,020,397.00


Chemical signalling has long been understood to be the primary language of cells. Nonetheless, minimally invasive tools to locally deliver chemicals in tissue are noticeably lacking in bioscience. This is particularly true when it comes to interfacing with the brain wherein implants tend to damage the very cells and tissue that are the subject of study. The absence of a minimally invasive tool for chemical delivery in the brain constrains our ability to understand our most complex organ. I propose an innovative solution to this technological limitation: a biomimetic tool for neuroscience that can deliver a wide range of chemicals in the brain with precise spatial and temporal control. The device known as the microfluidic ion pump works by electrophoretic delivery of chemicals from an internal microfluidic reservoir across an ion exchange membrane out to the surrounding tissue. These devices will be engineered in the image of neurons with the ability to sense and deliver chemicals along with structural features and mechanical properties on par with nerve tissue thereby enabling long-term, precisely controlled chemical delivery in vivo. The realization of this tool will enable new discoveries concerning how the brain works and what we can be done when it goes wrong. Overtime I anticipate the same research tools and concepts will be readily adapted to other applications in bioscience as well as healthcare thereby driving fundamental research with endless possibilities to have real world impact.