Feeds

Nanotubes help neurons get chatty

Small stuff, big potential

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

The Power of One Infographic

Italian researchers have managed to persuade brain cells to grow on a nanotube-coated surface - a breakthrough that could provide immediate help to good, old humans. The team found that the nanotubes actually boosted communication, or neural signal transfer, between the cells, which were taken from the hippocampus.

The research was prompted by the structural similarity of carbon nanotubes and neurons, according to a NanotechWeb report. "Neurite elongations [projections from nerve cells, such as the sciatic nerve or dendrites - Ed] are reminiscent of the cylindrical shape of carbon nanotubes," Laura Ballerini of the University of Trieste told the publication.

Along with her colleague, Maurizio Prato, she explained that this similarity, in combination with the carbon nanotubes's property of being conducting or semi-conducting, means that in principle, the tubes could be used to help reconnect non-communicating neurons, both structurally and functionally.

The nanotubes were processed so that they could be encouraged to dissolve in the organic solvent dimethylformamide. Drops of the resulting solution were placed on glass cover slips. Once the solvent had evaporated, the glass was heated, resulting in a glass substrate coated with nanotubes.

Once the surface was ready, the hippocampal neurons were attached to glass cover slips with and without nanotube coatings. Over the next ten days, the neurons grew similarly on either surface, and showed similar characteristics such as resting membrane potential, input resistance and capacitance. They also had similar intrinsic excitability.

However, frequency of post synaptic currents showed a six-fold increase in the neurons grown on nanotubes, compared to those grown on glass, demonstrating a significant improvement in the effectiveness of the neural signal.

The researchers say the breakthrough could have an immediate impact on the treatment of spinal cord injury, and in the design of chronic neural implants. ®

Related stories

Samsung prototype promises super-skinny TVs
HP scientists wave bye-bye to the transistor
Scientists call for nanotech caution

Eight steps to building an HP BladeSystem

More from The Register

next story
Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 claimed lives of HIV/AIDS cure scientists
Researchers, advocates, health workers among those on shot-down plane
Forty-five years ago: FOOTPRINTS FOUND ON MOON
NASA won't be back any time soon, sadly
The Sun took a day off last week and made NO sunspots
Someone needs to get that lazy star cooking again before things get cold around here
Mwa-ha-ha-ha! Eccentric billionaire Musk gets his PRIVATE SPACEPORT
In the Lone Star State, perhaps appropriately enough
MARS NEEDS OCEANS to support life - and so do exoplanets
Just being in the Goldilocks zone doesn't mean there'll be anyone to eat the porridge
Diary note: Pluto's close-up is a year from … now!
New Horizons is less than a year from the dwarf planet
Boffins discuss AI space program at hush-hush IARPA confab
IBM, MIT, plenty of others invited to fill Uncle Sam's spy toolchest, but where's Google?
prev story

Whitepapers

Reducing security risks from open source software
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
Application security programs and practises
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Consolidation: the foundation for IT and business transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.