Feeds

Nanotubes help neurons get chatty

Small stuff, big potential

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

The next step in data security

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

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

More from The Register

next story
SCREW YOU, Russia! NASA lobs $6.8bn at Boeing AND SpaceX to run space station taxis
Musk charging nearly half as much as Boeing for crew trips
Boffins say they've got Lithium batteries the wrong way around
Surprises at the nano-scale mean our ideas about how they charge could be all wrong
Thought that last dinosaur was BIG? This one's bloody ENORMOUS
Weighed several adult elephants, contend boffins
Edge Research Lab to tackle chilly LOHAN's final test flight
Our US allies to probe potential Vulture 2 servo freeze
Europe prepares to INVADE comet: Rosetta landing site chosen
No word yet on whether backup site is labelled 'K'
India's MOM Mars mission makes final course correction
Mangalyaan probe will feel the burn of orbital insertion on September 24th
Cracked it - Vulture 2 power podule fires servos for 4 HOURS
Pixhawk avionics juice issue sorted, onwards to Spaceport America
City hidden beneath England's Stonehenge had HUMAN ABATTOIR. And a pub
Boozed-up ancients drank beer before tearing corpses apart
prev story

Whitepapers

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk
A single remote control platform for user support is be key to providing an efficient helpdesk. Retain full control over the way in which screen and keystroke data is transmitted.
WIN a very cool portable ZX Spectrum
Win a one-off portable Spectrum built by legendary hardware hacker Ben Heck
Storage capacity and performance optimization at Mizuno USA
Mizuno USA turn to Tegile storage technology to solve both their SAN and backup issues.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Security and trust: The backbone of doing business over the internet
Explores the current state of website security and the contributions Symantec is making to help organizations protect critical data and build trust with customers.