Feeds

Nanotubes help neurons get chatty

Small stuff, big potential

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

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

Next gen security for virtualised datacentres

More from The Register

next story
Gigantic toothless 'DRAGONS' dominated Earth's early skies
Gummy pterosaurs outlived toothy competitors
Vulture 2 takes a battering in 100km/h test run
Still in one piece, but we're going to need MORE POWER
TRIANGULAR orbits will help Rosetta to get up close with Comet 67P
Probe will be just 10km from Space Duck in October
Boffins ID freakish spine-smothered prehistoric critter: The CLAW gave it away
Bizarre-looking creature actually related to velvet worms
CRR-CRRRK, beep, beep: Mars space truck backs out of slippery sand trap
Curiosity finds new drilling target after course correction
'Leccy racer whacks petrols in Oz race
ELMOFO rakes in two wins in sanctioned race
What does a flashmob of 1,024 robots look like? Just like this
Sorry, Harvard, did you say kilobots or KILLER BOTS?
NASA's rock'n'roll shock: ROLLING STONE FOUND ON MARS
No sign of Ziggy Stardust and his band
Why your mum was WRONG about whiffy tattooed people
They're a future source of RENEWABLE ENERGY
prev story

Whitepapers

5 things you didn’t know about cloud backup
IT departments are embracing cloud backup, but there’s a lot you need to know before choosing a service provider. Learn all the critical things you need to know.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Build a business case: developing custom apps
Learn how to maximize the value of custom applications by accelerating and simplifying their development.
Rethinking backup and recovery in the modern data center
Combining intelligence, operational analytics, and automation to enable efficient, data-driven IT organizations using the HP ABR approach.
Next gen security for virtualised datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.