Stéphanie Lacour

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Person.png Stéphanie Lacour   TwitterRdf-entity.pngRdf-icon.png
Stéphanie Lacour.jpg
Alma materINSA Lyon
Member ofWEF/Young Global Leaders/2015
Interests • brain
• brain-computer interface
• Digital healthcare
• transhumanism
Neurotechnologist specializing in the development of novel, soft, skin-like circuits that will integrate into long term neural implants and wearable prosthetic sensor skins, part of integration of neuroprosthetic devices and brain-computer interface into human tissue.

Stéphanie P. Lacour [1] is a French neurotechnologist and professor at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne (EPFL). Lacour directs a laboratory at EPFL which specializes in the development of technology to enable seamless integration of neuroprosthetic devices into human tissues, which will allow brain-machine and brain-computer interfaces.

She was selected a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum in 2015, a group that has shown keen interest in these research areas, as they are central to their Fourth Industrial Revolution.

Career and research

In 2011, Lacour was recruited to the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne (EPFL) as a tenure track Assistant Professor of Microtechnology and Bioengineering at the School of Engineering.[1] In 2016, Lacour was promoted to Associate Professor.[1] The following year, in 2017, Lacour was granted full professorship and was honored with the Bertarelli Foundation Chair in Neuroprosthetic Technology at the School of Engineering at EPFL.[2] As a co-founding member of EPFL Center for Neuroprosthetics, Lacour was promoted to Director of the center in 2018, located at EPFL's Campus Biotech in Geneva.[3] At EPFL, Lacour currently leads the Laboratory for Soft Bioelectronics Interfaces where she explores how to design novel, soft, skin-like circuits that will integrate into long term bi-directional neural implants and wearable prosthetic sensor skins.[4] Outside of EPFL, Lacour is a member of the Materials Research Society as well as a member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers.[5]

Using soft, flexible electronic circuits in vivo

In 2010, Lacour was awarded a European Research Council Grant to support her initiative, ESKIN aimed at designing and improving current electronic systems to increase their stretchability to make them compatible with biological tissues while maintaining electrical functionality.[6] Shortly after, Lacour was invited to give a TEDx talk at CERN In 2011 where she discussed her current research applying soft, flexible electronic circuits in addressing hearing loss in humans.[7] Because her soft machines are able to integrate with human nerves, Lacour says that, “These machines will help us to continue to be human”.[7] For example, Lacour and her team designed auditory brainstem implants adhered to polyimide substrates that have specific and enhanced interfaces with auditory neurons. These tiny, flexible electrodes are inserted into cochlea, and deliver electrical pulses along the nerve to transduce sound from the environment into signals that the brain can interpret.[8] By creating machines that have physical properties that are compatible with biological tissues, Lacour is able to establish a communication link between the external world, the device, and the brain to enhance the quality of life for people suffering from hearing loss.[8]

In 2012, Lacour gave a talk at TEDxHelvetia discussing the use of silicon rubber as a substrate for electronic circuit construction, and the trick of combining these flexible materials with typical electronic conductive materials to enable electrical function.[9] She deems this the “soft to hard challenge” - making electronic 3D structures that interface the most delicate tissues like nerves, spinal chords, and the brain.[9] To tackle this challenge, Lacour took a new approach, in an article published in 2013, where instead of using full and uniform elastomers, Lacour experimented with flexible, heterogeneous foams.[10] Since foam is a network of air bubbles, Lacour found that building metallic pathways between the bubbles kept the conductive materials intact and elasticity over 100% could be achieved.[11] With this enhanced flexibility and maintained conductivity, these new flexible circuits can be implemented in electrodes, sensors, and biocompatible connections.[10]

e-dura or Electronic Dura Mater

By 2015, Lacour and her team at EPFL had developed a groundbreaking technology called e-dura, short for electronic dura mater.[12] In its mechanical properties, the e-dura technology resembles biological dura mater, the thick protective coating around tissues of the central nervous system.[12] However, e-ura integrates electrical and pharmacological stimulation to return spinal chord function and mobility in rodents.[12] The part of this technology that allows it to return function to the nervous system of a living animal, is the biocompatibility.[12] e-dura accommodates deformations, since it is made from Lacour's stretchable, soft, electronic circuits, and this allows it to move with the body and prevent irritation and resistance that might lead to scarring and inflammation.[12] Further, this technology has a fluidic microchannel that enables delivery of neurotransmitters which help to pharmacologically regenerate nervous tissue.[12] Lacour and Grégoire Courtine, co-principal investigator in this research endeavour, tested their e-dura technology on paralyzed rats and, incredibly, these rats were able to regain spinal chord and limb function, enabling them to walk again.[13]

Nerve-on-a-chip platform

Though e-Dura already substantially progressed the field towards effective neuroprosthetics, one major limiting factor that still remains is the ability to precisely record neural activity in order to seamlessly integrate the internal motivation and neural activity in an organism with the desired output of the prosthetic.[14] In a therapeutic setting, the desired output of a neuroprosthetic can encompass a range of things from motor activity, such as driving muscles to fire and limbs to move, to silencing pain in chronic pain patients, to enabling amputees with the sensation of touch again.[14] As such, Lacour and her team developed a “nerve-on-a-chip” platform that is able to stimulate and record neural activity in nerve fibers.[14] Astonishingly, their technology, consisting of microfabricated electrode arrays, is able to record up to hundreds of individual neurons with a resolution at the level of individual neurons.[15] This technology also enabled photothermic inhibition of neurons, a capability that might one day be adapted to treat chronic pain.[15] Lastly, Lacour and her team used the neural recordings to train an algorithm to discern motor neuron signals from sensory signals which will one day enable the technology to bi-directionally control sensation and motor function.[15]


Event Participated in

WEF/Annual Meeting/201717 January 201720 January 2017Switzerland
World Economic Forum
2951 known participants


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