The brain is composed of billions of neurons and supporting cells (glia) that surround them. The structural and functional complexity of the brain has intrigued a great many enthusiastic researchers. Yuanyuan Guo, an Assistant Professor at Frontier Research Institute of Interdisciplinary Sciences (FRIS), Tohoku University, is among one of them; she aims to elucidate complex brain functions using a thin and flexible microelectronic fiber.
After graduating from the UESTC in China, Guo enrolled in the master's program in electronic engineering at Tohoku University, where she built a theoretical model of a semiconductor-based biosensor to enhance its performance for biological applications. Later to facilitate its application in addressing biological questions, she entered the Ph.D. program at the Graduate School of Biomedical Engineering at the same university. Fascinated by the complexity and the beauty of the brain, she worked on the development of fibers to measure and modulate brain activities during her studies abroad at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Virginia Tech.
Currently, fiber technologies have been widely used for optical communications, but fibers developed by Guo can incorporate not only optical communication but also novel functionalities including biosensors, actuators, and additional electrodes and microchannels. It is a fiber, with a thin diameter close to the human hair, that enables one to eavesdrop on intrinsic chemical signals – the fundamental language between cells within the brain. While most effort to decipher the in-brain chemistry involves using tags such as fluorescent molecules, which are foreign compounds being introduced into biological systems, the tiny microelectronic fiber can decipher the "brain as it is" with biosensing capabilities, as its unique feature.
Guo has been awarded by the Japan Science and Technology Agency (JST) for FOREST (Fusion Oriented REsearch for disruptive Science and Technology) Program starting in fiscal year 2021. She is leading the research group to develop novel neuroelectronics based on fibers, such as the brain interface, on an interdisciplinary and international collaboration basis, at the FRIS, Tohoku University.
In the future, she strives to investigate interactions with the brain-body-environment by establishing biofibertronics by merging biology, fiber technology, electronics, and information sciences. The aims are two folds, one is to develop the fiber-based multimodal brain interface to advance fundamental neuroscience; the other is to develop wearable smart fibers and textiles for multiplexed sensing of biological and environmental signals including brain waves, temperature, heartbeats, sweat sensing, etc. Such effort will enable the seamless monitoring of our mental and physical health status in our daily life.