SPARC - FOA Priorities

This webpage serves as the official list of Priorities for SPARC.

RM17-009 is now closed and there are no new Priorities at this time.  Please visit this page in the future to view new OT FOA Priorities and associated receipt dates. 

If you have any questions, or if you have suggestions for future Priorities, please email NIH-CF_SPARC@mail.nih.gov  


RFA-RM-16-003 (previous FOA) 
These Priorities are archived for reference purposes only.

These priorities were posted February 8, 2016.

  • Modification of technologies, such as those previously developed to understand neural circuits in the Central Nervous System, to understand neural circuits in the Peripheral Nervous System; or technology used to understand neural circuits controlling one organ which can be modified for use with another target organ or multiple other organs
  • Sensing techniques for relevant biomarkers to inform closed-loop response systems in organs (e.g., biomolecule sampling/measuring)
  • Technologies for cell-class specific targeting and manipulation in peripheral nerves and ganglia, appropriate for animal models with clinical relevance (e.g., optogenetics)
  • Activity sensors and associated imaging technologies suitable for peripheral nerve and end-organ monitoring (e.g., voltage probes)
  • Reliable, wireless, high density technologies capable of simultaneous recording/stimulation of all neural signals going to and coming from a targeted organ; and or to facilitate functional mapping between multiple organs and nerves
  • Biomimetic or biologically-active interfaces for chronic implants of electrodes and sensors that enhance our ability to chronically study the function of a target organ
  • Invasive and non-invasive technologies for tunable stimulation/inhibition/block of nerve activity (e.g., ultrasound, magnetic fields, etc.)
  • Tools for non-invasive tracing and functional imaging to facilitate minimally invasive surgeries in humans and anatomical mapping
  • Computational platforms and predictive models that generate testable hypotheses of autonomic nervous system control of organs

RM-17-009 (previous FOA)
These Priorities are archived for reference purposes only.

These priorities were posted March, June and September, 2017.

  • Imaging and targeting:
    • Quantitative imaging and analysis techniques for PNS and/or organ tissue
    • Contrast agents to identify variability due to individual subject differences in either neuroanatomy or neurophysiology
    • Whole-body imaging of neural tracts (in vivo or ex vivo); the ex-vivo approaches may be destructive or non-destructive to the tissue
    • Fascicular tracing/targeting (i.e., methods to increase contrast, biochemical, surgical, and/or viral)
    • Fiber type targeting (i.e., methods to ligate an imaging agent, biochemical, surgical, and/or viral); this includes plexi, unbundled nerves, and/or vascular nerves
    • Methods to assess blood flow within microvasculature of nerves and ganglia. Of particular interest are methods that can observe blood flow under electrodes
    • Non-invasive imaging tools to locate and characterize isolated ganglia and/or nerve branches
    • Organ preparation and/or methods to image neural junctions/terminals in an organ of interest
    • Phantoms to support development of new imaging technologies for neuroanatomy
    • Real-time localized sensing and/or imaging of neurotransmitter release and/or uptake in the PNS
    • Adaptation of stitching, segmenting, and tracing software to PNS and organ datasets
    • Adaptation of biomechanical, biochemical, and bioelectrical models of organ function for use in studying the impact of neuromodulation on organ function
    • Computational models to assess safety limits of stimulation and/or blocking of neural activity (e.g. biophysics and regulatory science for neural interfaces)
    • Biophysical models of electrical neuromodulation that predict selective activation or block specific fiber types and locations. These computational models should be predictive of side effects (i.e. other fibers that may be activated or blocked)
    • Methods to enhance spatial resolution and/or selectivity for fiber types, fascicles, plexi, or ganglia that do not rely on genetic manipulation or transfer (e.g., methods to ligate an imaging agent, enhance contrast, or selectively activate nerve components without genetic manipulation or transfer)
  • Modeling and simulation:
    • Computational models to assess safety limits of stimulation and/or blocking of neural activity (e.g. biophysics and regulatory science for neural interfaces) with or without model validation in vivo
    • Computational models of neuromodulation that incorporate variability due to individual subject differences
    • Biophysical models of electrical, infrared, or ultrasonic neuromodulation that predict selective activation or block specific fiber types and locations. These computational models should be predictive of side effects (i.e. other fibers that may be activated or blocked)
    • Adaptation of stitching, segmenting, and tracing software to PNS and organ datasets
    • Adaptation of biomechanical, biochemical, and bioelectrical models of organ function for use in studying the impact of neuromodulation on organ function
    • Computational models for non-invasive nerve stimulation technologies (e.g., TENS) to provide higher spatial resolution and/or fiber-type specificity. Models must be validated in vivo
  • Surgical:
    • Surgical tools to safely find and/or access nerves, fascicles, and/or ganglia/plexi (e.g. imaging, protocols, etc)
    • Surgical phantoms
    • Real-time in-vivo methods to determine if the PNS is damaged during surgery
    • Methods to repair PNS damage after implant of a neural interface
    • Surgical tools to safely find, access, and/or attach interfaces to nerves, fascicles, and/or ganglia/plexi (e.g. imaging, protocols, etc)
  • Interfacing:
    • New approaches to neuromodulate the PNS that are inherently safe, have high specificity (temporal, spatial, fiber type), and are minimally or non-invasive. 
    • Blocking must be reversible. 
    • Potential approaches might include biologically derived methods to interface with the PNS in vivo, such as artificial biologic constructs, hydrogel-encapsulated cells, or engineered tissue grafts
    • Multi-modal (e.g. optogenetic and electrical) neural interfaces that provide greater specificity than a single-mode interface
    • Adaptation of signals engineering approaches to increase spatial and temporal precision of existing multichannel neuromodulation technologies. For example, applying inverse transform or phased array methods to an existing nerve cuff 
    • Distribution of existing neuromodulation systems to the SPARC consortium. While some adaptation may be required to build interfaces for SPARC1 or SPARC3 investigators, the emphasis of this priority is on the manufacture, distribution, training, and support for these technologies and the associated surgical methods to implant them in nerves, ganglia, or plexi 
    • Adaptation and safety testing of existing systems for use in large animal models or humans. Systems should provide high-specificity neuromodulation of the PNS or assess end-organ function 
    • Biosensors to detect end-organ function biomarkers
    • Methods to identify and understand chronic PNS tissue damage after implant of a neural interface
    • Surgical tools to safely find, access, and/or attach interfaces to nerves, fascicles, plexi, and/or ganlgia (e.g., imaging, surgical protocols, etc.) - This Priority only supports development of surgical tooling and methods, not development of new interfaces
    • Methods for performing electrophysiological recordings during MR imaging
    • Enhancement of FDA-cleared or approved non-invasive nerve stimulation technologies (e.g., TENS) to provide higher spatial resolution and/or fiber-type specificity
  • Sample preparation priorities:
    • Transgenic large animal models to facilitate imaging/targeting or interfacing with peripheral nerves and/or end organs
    • Methods for accessing and patch clamping ganglia, plexi, and small nerves. This may include techniques for enzymatic digestion or robotic automation of access to dissociated ganglia
    • Optimization of techniques to label human peripheral nerves and/or end organs. This may include new antibodies, fluorophores, or image processing algorithms to improve immunohistochemical analysis of small nerves or nerve-organ junctions
    • Organ preparation and/or methods to image neural junctions/terminals in an organ of interest
  • Services provided to all SPARC consortium members:
    • Large-scale high-resolution image capture of ex vivo specimens (e.g. TEM, X-ray, or light sheet)
    • Device testing (e.g., mechanical, electrochemical, toxicity, accelerated life, ISO 10993 or equivalent)
    • ASIC design, development, and validation
    • Packaging and encapsulation, or interconnects suitable for >6 month animal trials or human use
    • Genetics services (e.g., RNA-seq, viral vector development, and transgenic line generation)
    • Distribution of existing neuromodulation systems to the SPARC consortium. While some adaptation may be required to build interfaces for SPARC1 or SPARC3 investigators, the emphasis of this priority is on the manufacture, distribution, training, and support for these technologies and the associated surgical methods to implant them in nerves, ganglia, or plexi 
  • Animal and tissue preparation priorities:
    • Genetic approaches for large animals to facilitate imaging/targeting or interfacing with peripheral nerves and/or end organs (e.g., transgenic models, viral vectors, etc.)
    • Methods for accessing and patch clamping ganglia, plexi, and small nerves. This may include techniques for enzymatic digestion or robotic automation of access to dissociated ganglia
    • Optimization of techniques to label human peripheral nerves and/or end organs. This may include new fluorophores or image processing algorithms to improve immunohistochemical analysis of small nerves or nerve-organ junctions

This page last reviewed on December 12, 2017