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Nanotubes boost neurons

  January 5/12, 2009
Bring brain cells into contact with carbon nanotubes and you can treat diseases and brain injuries, and maybe even improve your thinking.

Two studies have advanced efforts to develop carbon nanotube-based neuroprosthetic devices by showing how carbon nanotubes improve neuron growth and performance.

The first shows that carbon nanotubes form tight connections with neuron membranes. The connections provide electrical shortcuts between the two ends of a cell, which improves neural performance. The second study shows that carbon nanotube films boost neuron growth only within a narrow range of electrical conductance.

This information will make it easier to design carbon nanotube electrodes to replace metal electrodes used to treat conditions like Parkinson's disease and severe depression. Carbon nanotube electrodes could also replace metal electrodes for recording brain signals. The information could also help researchers develop implants for treating brain injuries and, someday, build devices that enhance cognitive function.

Research papers:
Carbon Nanotubes Might Improve Neuronal Performance by Favouring Electrical Shortcuts
Nature Nanotechnology, published online December 21, 2008
Conductive Single-Walled Carbon Nanotube Substrates Modulate Neuronal Growth
Nano Letters, published online December 29, 2008

Researchers' homepages:
Laura Ballerini
Michele Giugliano
Henry Markram
Maurizio Prato
Vladimir Parpura
Elena Bekyarova
Robert C. Haddon

Related stories and briefs:
Nanotubes tap neurons -- related research

Further info:
Neuronano project -- project homepage

Back to TRN January 5/12, 2009

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