These researchers describe an amperometric sensor for the detection of ethanol in the extracellular fluid of animal brains.
Ethanol is one of the most widespread psychotropic agents in western society. While its psychoactive effects are mainly associated to GABAergic and glutamatergic systems, the positive reinforcing properties of ethanol are related to activation of mesolimbic dopaminergic pathways resulting in a release of dopamine in the nucleus accumbens. Given these neurobiological implications, the detection of ethanol in brain extracellular fluid (ECF) is of great importance. In this study we describe the development and characterization of an implantable biosensor for the amperometric detection of brain ethanol in real time. Ten different designs were characterized in vitro in terms of Michaelis–Menten kinetics (VMAX and KM), sensitivity (linear region slope, LOD and LOQ), and electroactive interference blocking. The same parameters were monitored in selected designs up to 28 days after fabrication in order to quantify their stability. Finally, the best performing biosensor design was selected for implantation in the nucleus accumbens and coupled with a previously-developed telemetric device for the real-time monitoring of ethanol in freely moving, untethered rats. Ethanol was then administered systemically to animals, either alone or in combination with ranitidine (an alcohol dehydrogenase inhibitor) while the biosensor signal was continuously recorded. The implanted biosensor, integrated in a low-cost telemetry system, was demonstrated to be a reliable device for the short-time monitoring of exogenous ethanol in brain ECF, and represents a new generation of analytical tools for studying ethanol toxicokinetics and the effect of drugs on brain ethanol levels.