Honors & Awards

  • NSF Graduate Research Fellow, National Science Foundation (2021-2024)
  • Bio-X Honorary Graduate Student Fellow, Stanford Bio-X (2021-2024)
  • Centennial Teaching Assistant Award, Stanford University (2022)

Education & Certifications

  • MS, Stanford University, Applied Physics (2022)
  • BS, University of California, Santa Barbara, Physics (2019)

All Publications

  • Activation of mechanoluminescent nanotransducers by focused ultrasound enables light delivery to deep-seated tissue in vivo. Nature protocols Jiang, S., Wu, X., Yang, F., Rommelfanger, N. J., Hong, G. 2023


    Light is used extensively in biological and medical research for optogenetic neuromodulation, fluorescence imaging, photoactivatable gene editing and light-based therapies. The major challenge to the in vivo implementation of light-based methods in deep-seated structures of the brain or of internal organs is the limited penetration of photons in biological tissue. The presence of light scattering and absorption has resulted in the development of invasive techniques such as the implantation of optical fibers, the insertion of endoscopes and the surgical removal of overlying tissues to overcome light attenuation and deliver it deep into the body. However, these procedures are highly invasive and make it difficult to reposition and adjust the illuminated area in each animal. Here, we detail a noninvasive approach to deliver light (termed 'deLight') in deep tissue via systemically injected mechanoluminescent nanotransducers that can be gated by using focused ultrasound. This approach achieves localized light emission with sub-millimeter resolution and millisecond response times in any vascularized organ of living mice without requiring invasive implantation of light-emitting devices. For example, deLight enables optogenetic neuromodulation in live mice without a craniotomy or brain implants. deLight provides a generalized method for applications that require a light source in deep tissues in vivo, such as deep-brain fluorescence imaging and photoactivatable genome editing. The implementation of the entire protocol for an in vivo application takes ~1-2 weeks.

    View details for DOI 10.1038/s41596-023-00895-8

    View details for PubMedID 37914782

  • Laminin-coated electronic scaffolds with vascular topography for tracking and promoting the migration of brain cells after injury. Nature biomedical engineering Yang, X., Qi, Y., Wang, C., Zwang, T. J., Rommelfanger, N. J., Hong, G., Lieber, C. M. 2023


    In the adult brain, neural stem cells are largely restricted into spatially discrete neurogenic niches, and hence areas of neuron loss during neurodegenerative disease or following a stroke or traumatic brain injury do not typically repopulate spontaneously. Moreover, understanding neural activity accompanying the neural repair process is hindered by a lack of minimally invasive devices for the chronic measurement of the electrophysiological dynamics in damaged brain tissue. Here we show that 32 individually addressable platinum microelectrodes integrated into laminin-coated branched polymer scaffolds stereotaxically injected to span a hydrogel-filled cortical lesion and deeper regions in the brains of mice promote neural regeneration while allowing for the tracking of migrating host brain cells into the lesion. Chronic measurements of single-unit activity and neural-circuit analyses revealed the establishment of spiking activity in new neurons in the lesion and their functional connections with neurons deeper in the brain. Electronic implants mimicking the topographical and surface properties of brain vasculature may aid the stimulation and tracking of neural-circuit restoration following injury.

    View details for DOI 10.1038/s41551-023-01101-6

    View details for PubMedID 37814007

    View details for PubMedCentralID 4800432

  • Shedding light on neurons: optical approaches for neuromodulation. National science review Jiang, S., Wu, X., Rommelfanger, N. J., Ou, Z., Hong, G. 2022; 9 (10): nwac007


    Today's optical neuromodulation techniques are rapidly evolving, benefiting from advances in photonics, genetics and materials science. In this review, we provide an up-to-date overview of the latest optical approaches for neuromodulation. We begin with the physical principles and constraints underlying the interaction between light and neural tissue. We then present advances in optical neurotechnologies in seven modules: conventional optical fibers, multifunctional fibers, optical waveguides, light-emitting diodes, upconversion nanoparticles, optical neuromodulation based on the secondary effects of light, and unconventional light sources facilitated by ultrasound and magnetic fields. We conclude our review with an outlook on new methods and mechanisms that afford optical neuromodulation with minimal invasiveness and footprint.

    View details for DOI 10.1093/nsr/nwac007

    View details for PubMedID 36196122

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC9522429

  • Pristine carbon nanotubes are efficient absorbers at radio frequencies. Nanotechnology Rommelfanger, N. J., Brinson, K., Bailey, J. E., Bancroft, A. M., Ou, Z., Hong, G. 2022


    Radio frequency ablation and microwave hyperthermia are powerful tools for destroying dysfunctional biological tissues, but wireless application of these techniques is hindered by the inability to focus the electromagnetic energy to small targets. The use of locally injected radio frequency- or microwave-absorbing nanomaterials can help to overcome this challenge by confining heat production to the injected region. Previous theoretical work suggests that high-aspect-ratio conducting nanomaterials, such as carbon nanotubes, offer powerful radio frequency and microwave absorption. While carbon nanotubes have been previously studied for radio frequency and microwave hyperthermia enhancement, these studies have employed sonication for sample preparation, reducing the volume fraction and average length within the carbon nanotube suspensions. In this manuscript, we use a sonication-free preparation technique to preserve both the length of carbon nanotubes and the high volume fraction of their bundled state. We measure the heating of these samples at 2 GHz compared to the heating of a biological tissue reference using infrared thermography. We report an increase in heating by 4.5 fold compared to the tissue reference, with localized heating clearly observable within a three-dimensional biological tissue phantom. Numerical simulations further aid in producing a temperature map within the phantom and demonstrating localized heating. Due to their significant differential heating ratio, we believe that sonication-free carbon nanotube samples may bring unforeseen opportunities to the fields of radio frequency ablation and microwave hyperthermia.

    View details for DOI 10.1088/1361-6528/ac6cf8

    View details for PubMedID 35512668

  • Tether-free photothermal deep-brain stimulation in freely behaving mice via wide-field illumination in the near-infrared-II window. Nature biomedical engineering Wu, X., Jiang, Y., Rommelfanger, N. J., Yang, F., Zhou, Q., Yin, R., Liu, J., Cai, S., Ren, W., Shin, A., Ong, K. S., Pu, K., Hong, G. 2022


    Neural circuitry is typically modulated via invasive brain implants and tethered optical fibres in restrained animals. Here we show that wide-field illumination in the second near-infrared spectral window (NIR-II) enables implant-and-tether-free deep-brain stimulation in freely behaving mice with stereotactically injected macromolecular photothermal transducers activating neurons ectopically expressing the temperature-sensitive transient receptor potential cation channel subfamily V member 1 (TRPV1). The macromolecular transducers, ~40 nm in size and consisting of a semiconducting polymer core and an amphiphilic polymer shell, have a photothermal conversion efficiency of 71% at 1,064 nm, the wavelength at which light attenuation by brain tissue is minimized (within the 400-1,800 nm spectral window). TRPV1-expressing neurons in the hippocampus, motor cortex and ventral tegmental area of mice can be activated with minimal thermal damage on wide-field NIR-II illumination from a light source placed at distances higher than 50 cm above the animal's head and at an incident power density of 10 mW mm-2. Deep-brain stimulation via wide-field NIR-II illumination may open up opportunities for social behavioural studies in small animals.

    View details for DOI 10.1038/s41551-022-00862-w

    View details for PubMedID 35314800

  • Learning from the brain's architecture: bioinspired strategies towards implantable neural interfaces. Current opinion in biotechnology Rommelfanger, N. J., Keck, C. H., Chen, Y., Hong, G. 2021; 72: 8-12


    While early neural interfaces consisted of rigid, monolithic probes, recent implantable technologies include meshes, gels, and threads that imitate various properties of the neural tissue itself. Such mimicry brings new capabilities to the traditional electrophysiology toolbox, with benefits for both neuroscience studies and clinical treatments. Specifically, by matching the multi-dimensional mechanical properties of the brain, neural implants can preserve the endogenous environment while functioning over chronic timescales. Further, topological mimicry of neural structures enables seamless integration into the tissue and provides proximal access to neurons for high-quality recordings. Ultimately, we envision that neuromorphic devices incorporating functional, mechanical, and topological mimicry of the brain may facilitate stable operation of advanced brain machine interfaces with minimal disruption of the native tissue.

    View details for DOI 10.1016/j.copbio.2021.07.020

    View details for PubMedID 34365114

  • On the feasibility of wireless radio frequency ablation using nanowire antennas APL MATERIALS Rommelfanger, N. J., Hong, G. 2021; 9 (7): 071103


    Radio frequency ablation (RFA) is a proven technique for eliminating cancerous or dysfunctional tissues in the body. However, the delivery of RFA electrodes to deep tissues causes damage to overlying healthy tissues, while a minimally invasive RFA technique would limit damage to targeted tissues alone. In this manuscript, we propose a wireless RFA technique relying on the absorption of radio frequencies (RFs) by gold nanowires in vivo and the deep penetration of RF into biological tissues. Upon optimizing the dimensions of the gold nanowires and the frequency of the applied RF for breast cancer and myocardium tissues, we find that heating rates in excess of 2000 K/s can be achieved with high spatial resolution in vivo, enabling short heating durations for ablation and minimizing heat diffusion to surrounding tissues. The results suggest that gold nanowires can act as "radiothermal" agents to concentrate heating within targeted tissues, negating the need to implant bulky electrodes for tissue ablation.

    View details for DOI 10.1063/5.0053189

    View details for Web of Science ID 000669088500001

    View details for PubMedID 34262798

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC8259129

  • Nanotransducers for Wireless Neuromodulation. Matter Li, X., Xiong, H., Rommelfanger, N., Xu, X., Youn, J., Slesinger, P. A., Hong, G., Qin, Z. 2021; 4 (5): 1484-1510


    Understanding the signal transmission and processing within the central nervous system (CNS) is a grand challenge in neuroscience. The past decade has witnessed significant advances in the development of new tools to address this challenge. Development of these new tools draws diverse expertise from genetics, materials science, electrical engineering, photonics and other disciplines. Among these tools, nanomaterials have emerged as a unique class of neural interfaces due to their small size, remote coupling and conversion of different energy modalities, various delivery methods, and mitigated chronic immune responses. In this review, we will discuss recent advances in nanotransducers to modulate and interface with the neural system without physical wires. Nanotransducers work collectively to modulate brain activity through optogenetic, mechanical, thermal, electrical and chemical modalities. We will compare important parameters among these techniques including the invasiveness, spatiotemporal precision, cell-type specificity, brain penetration, and translation to large animals and humans. Important areas for future research include a better understanding of the nanomaterials-brain interface, integration of sensing capability for bidirectional closed-loop neuromodulation, and genetically engineered functional materials for cell-type specific neuromodulation.

    View details for DOI 10.1016/j.matt.2021.02.012

    View details for PubMedID 33997768

  • Differential heating of metal nanostructures at radio frequencies. Physical review applied Rommelfanger, N. J., Ou, Z., Keck, C. H., Hong, G. 2021; 15 (5)


    Nanoparticles with strong absorption of incident radio frequency (RF) or microwave irradiation are desirable for remote hyperthermia treatments. While controversy has surrounded the absorption properties of spherical metallic nanoparticles, other geometries such as prolate and oblate spheroids have not received sufficient attention for application in hyperthermia therapies. Here, we use the electrostatic approximation to calculate the relative absorption ratio of metallic nanoparticles in various biological tissues. We consider a broad parameter space, sweeping across frequencies from 1 MHz to 10 GHz, while also tuning the nanoparticle dimensions from spheres to high-aspect-ratio spheroids approximating nanowires and nanodiscs. We find that while spherical metallic nanoparticles do not offer differential heating in tissue, large absorption cross sections can be obtained from long prolate spheroids, while thin oblate spheroids offer minor potential for absorption. Our results suggest that metallic nanowires should be considered for RF- and microwave-based wireless hyperthermia treatments in many tissues going forward.

    View details for DOI 10.1103/physrevapplied.15.054007

    View details for PubMedID 36268260

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC9581340

  • How is flexible electronics advancing neuroscience research? Biomaterials Chen, Y., Rommelfanger, N. J., Mahdi, A. I., Wu, X., Keene, S. T., Obaid, A., Salleo, A., Wang, H., Hong, G. 2020; 268: 120559


    Innovative neurotechnology must be leveraged to experimentally answer the multitude of pressing questions in modern neuroscience. Driven by the desire to address the existing neuroscience problems with newly engineered tools, we discuss in this review the benefits of flexible electronics for neuroscience studies. We first introduce the concept and define the properties of flexible and stretchable electronics. We then categorize the four dimensions where flexible electronics meets the demands of modern neuroscience: chronic stability, interfacing multiple structures, multi-modal compatibility, and neuron-type-specific recording. Specifically, with the bending stiffness now approaching that of neural tissue, implanted flexible electronic devices produce little shear motion, minimizing chronic immune responses and enabling recording and stimulation for months, and even years. The unique mechanical properties of flexible electronics also allow for intimate conformation to the brain, the spinal cord, peripheral nerves, and the retina. Moreover, flexible electronics enables optogenetic stimulation, microfluidic drug delivery, and neural activity imaging during electrical stimulation and recording. Finally, flexible electronics can enable neuron-type identification through analysis of high-fidelity recorded action potentials facilitated by its seamless integration with the neural circuitry. We argue that flexible electronics will play an increasingly important role in neuroscience studies and neurological therapies via the fabrication of neuromorphic devices on flexible substrates and the development of enhanced methods of neuronal interpenetration.

    View details for DOI 10.1016/j.biomaterials.2020.120559

    View details for PubMedID 33310538

  • Conjugated Polymers Enable a Liquid Retinal Prosthesis. Trends in chemistry Rommelfanger, N. J., Hong, G. 2020; 2 (11): 961-964

    View details for DOI 10.1016/j.trechm.2020.08.004

    View details for PubMedID 36268538

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC9581341

  • Bioinspired Materials for In Vivo Bioelectronic Neural Interfaces. Matter Woods, G. A., Rommelfanger, N. J., Hong, G. 2020; 3 (4): 1087–1113


    The success of in vivo neural interfaces relies on their long-term stability and large scale in interrogating and manipulating neural activity after implantation. Conventional neural probes, owing to their limited spatiotemporal resolution and scale, face challenges for studying the massive, interconnected neural network in its native state. In this review, we argue that taking inspiration from biology will unlock the next generation of in vivo bioelectronic neural interfaces. Reducing the feature sizes of bioelectronic neural interfaces to mimic those of neurons enables high spatial resolution and multiplexity. Additionally, chronic stability at the device-tissue interface is realized by matching the mechanical properties of bioelectronic neural interfaces to those of the endogenous tissue. Further, modeling the design of neural interfaces after the endogenous topology of the neural circuitry enables new insights into the connectivity and dynamics of the brain. Lastly, functionalization of neural probe surfaces with coatings inspired by biology leads to enhanced tissue acceptance over extended timescales. Bioinspired neural interfaces will facilitate future developments in neuroscience studies and neurological treatments by leveraging bidirectional information transfer and integrating neuromorphic computing elements.

    View details for DOI 10.1016/j.matt.2020.08.002

    View details for PubMedID 33103115