Aptamer-functionalized neural recording electrodes for the direct measurement of cocaine in vivo
Cocaine is a highly addictive psychostimulant that acts through competitive inhibition of the dopamine transporter. In order to fully understand the region specific neuropathology of cocaine abuse and addiction, it is unequivocally necessary to develop cocaine sensing technology capable of directly measuring real-time cocaine transient events local to different brain regions throughout the pharmacokinetic time course of exposure. We have developed an electrochemical aptamer-based in vivo cocaine sensor on a silicon based neural recording probe platform capable of directly measuring cocaine from discrete brain locations using square wave voltammetry (SWV). The sensitivity of the sensor for cocaine follows a modified exponential Langmuir model relationship and complete aptamer-target binding occurs in <2 s and unbinding in <4 s. The resulting temporal resolution is a 75× increase from traditional microdialysis sampling methods. When implanted in the rat dorsal striatum, the cocaine sensor exhibits stable SWV signal drift (modeled using a logarithmic exponential equation) and is capable of measuring real-time in vivo response to repeated local cocaine infusion as well as systemic IV cocaine injection. The in vivo sensor is capable of obtaining reproducible measurements over a period approaching 3 hours, after which signal amplitude significantly decreases likely due to tissue encapsulation. Finally, aptamer functionalized neural recording probes successfully detect spontaneous and evoked neural activity in the brain. This dual functionality makes the cocaine sensor a powerful tool capable of monitoring both biochemical and electrophysiological signals with high spatial and temporal resolution.