Scientists at the University of Bath have developed a tiny silicon chip small enough to be placed at his fingertips. It is characterized by the ability to achieve “almost the same” function as the biological nerve cells present in the human body, providing new treatment options for patients with spinal cord injury and heart failure. The low-power “cells-on-chip” device can be used in bioelectronic devices or implants to fight diseases that affect the nervous system, such as Alzheimer’s disease, the team said.
(From: University of Bath, via Cnet)
Nerve cells (or neurons) are spread throughout the brain and nervous system and are quickly sent electrical signals through their slender arms, which transmitinformation from the brain to the body (and return).
Signal conduction of nerve cells, involving ion channels that convert mechanical/chemical signals into electrical signals. Given the esoteric complexity of the principles of neural impulses, it is difficult for researchers to understand how cells respond to certain stimuli.
But Alain Nogaret, a physicist and co-author of the study at the University of Bath, said in a press release: “Before that, neurons were like black boxes. But we managed to open the black box and get inside it.”
Its work is changing paradigmly because it provides a reliable way to reproduce the electrical properties of real neurons.
Professor Alain Nogaret (left) and Kamal Abu Hassan (right)
Details of the study were published Tuesday in the journal Nature Communications. Breakthrough technology is detailed in the paper, which reproduces the electrical properties of neurons on microchips.
The team successfully replicated the individual nerve cells needed for memory and breathing in the brain (hippocampus neurons and breathing neurons). The chip has many synthetic ion channels, which are responsible for electrical impulses in biological cells.
By comparing them with signals found in hippocampus neurons and brain stem neurons in rats, the team asked the chip to accept 60 different stimuli and modeled the condition. It turns out that the chip can reproduce the response in real cells each time.
It is important to note that while this study presents the prospect of potential biomedical implants in the future, the authors note that other characteristics of nerve cells need to be considered.
The chip acts like a single cell, but the branch arm of the nerve cell, which is responsible for transmitting signals between cells, is still quite complex.
In a follow-up study, the team will try to build a complete “bioneuron dynamics” model on a chip-based basis, while adding sections that describe branch activity characteristics.