Lin Du, UC Berkeley: “Implantable Biomedical Systems to Restore Daily Activities for Paralyzed People”

Position: Postdoctoral research fellow

Current Institution: University of Pennsylvania

Abstract: Implantable Biomedical Systems to Restore Daily Activities for Paralyzed People

Paralysis is a substantial health problem all over the world. In the United States alone there are approximately 5.4 million people living with paralysis – nearly 1 in 50 people. To restore daily activities for paralyzed people both controlled stimulation of muscle to induce movement and somatosensory feedback to the brain of hand-object interaction are required. To achieve this ambitious goal a highly interdisciplinary study is required including implantable micro-electro-mechanical-systems (MEMS) technology for movement sensing and neuron stimulation; ultra-low power wireless integrated circuits for signal and power communication; in-depth study of the physiology involved in neuron and muscle behavior; and trained algorithms for establishing the brain-machine interface operation. My research explores one of these key challenges: implantable MEMS systems. The system should attain long-term hermeticity to provide electronics and sensors with protection from the harsh environment of the human body. Simultaneously the package material should be biocompatible to avoid any unwanted biological reactions. In addition the implantable system should be small and lightweight such that it can fit within the body environment. Typically inside these systems there is an implantable sensor or stimulator for movement detection or neuron stimulation an energy source (either a battery or a wireless power transmission system) for powering the electronics as well as wireless signal communication electronics. In my work I have fabricated a wireless fingertip-implantable tactile sensing system integrating a capacitive force sensor a wireless communication circuit and biocompatible hermetic packaging technology. Our team is currently investigating the in vivo performance of the sensing system. In my future research I would like to understand how to “bridge” the sensing signals and the neural signals so that a fully intelligent system to help paralyzed people to regain movement and sensation can be achieved.


Lin Du is a postdoctoral research fellow at the Department of Neurosurgery at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania working with Prof. Andrew G. Richardson. She obtained her Ph.D. in Electrical and Systems Engineering from University of Pennsylvania under the supervision of Prof. Mark G. Allen. She received M.S. degree in Mechanical Engineering (valedictorian) and B.S. degree in Mechatronics Engineering both from Beijing Institute of Technology. Her research interests include implantable MEMS technologies micromachining and its applications for human health monitoring systems. Her current focus is on implantable tactile sensing system to provide somatosensory feedback for paralyzed people using brain machine interface technology. Her work has appeared in several prestigious journals. While at UPenn she served as a board member of Advance Women in Engineering (2019-21) received the Mulroney Fellowship (2016-20) and was awarded the Best ESE PhD Colloquium Award (2019).