Carbon nanotubes show promise in emerging field of neuro-engineering and neuroprosthetics
Although naturally occurring smallpox was eradicated in 1977, there is concern that bioterrorists might obtain smallpox from a laboratory and release it into the population. Under such circumstances, the supply of smallpox vaccine may be insufficient for universal administration. In a study published in the December 2008 issue of The American Journal of Medicine, researchers
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Research done by scientists in Italy and Switzerland has shown that carbon nanotubes may be the ideal “smart” brain material.
Their results, published December 21 in the advance online edition of the journal Nature Nanotechnology, are a promising step forward in the search to find ways to “bypass” faulty brain wiring.
The research shows that carbon nanotubes, which, like neurons, are highly electrically conductive, form extremely tight contacts with neuronal cell membranes. Unlike the metal electrodes that are currently used in research and clinical applications, the nanotubes can create shortcuts between the distal and proximal compartments of the neuron, resulting in enhanced neuronal excitability.
The study was conducted in the Laboratory of Neural Microcircuitry at EPFL in Switzerland and led by Michel Giugliano (now an assistant professor at the University of Antwerp) and University of Trieste professor Laura Ballerini. “This result is extremely relevant for the emerging field of neuro-engineering and neuroprosthetics,” explains Giugliano, who hypothesizes that the nanotubes could be used as a new building block of novel “electrical bypass” systems for treating traumatic injury of the central nervous system. Carbon nano-electrodes could also be used to replace metal parts in clinical applications such as deep brain stimulation for the treatment of Parkinson’s disease or severe depression. And they show promise as a whole new class of “smart” materials for use in a wide range of potential neuroprosthetic applications.
Henry Markram, head of the Laboratory of Neural Microcircuitry and an author on the paper, adds: “There are three fundamental obstacles to developing reliable neuroprosthetics: 1) stable interfacing of electromechanical devices with neural tissue, 2) understanding how to stimulate the neural tissue, and 3) understanding what signals to record from the neurons in order for the device to make an automatic and appropriate decision to stimulate. The new carbon nanotube-based interface technology discovered together with state of the art simulations of brain-machine interfaces is the key to developing all types of neuroprosthetics — sight, sound, smell, motion, vetoing epileptic attacks, spinal bypasses, as well as repairing and even enhancing cognitive functions.”
University of Pittsburgh researchers have developed the first natural, nontoxic method for biodegrading carbon nanotubes, a finding that could help diminish the environmental and health concerns that mar the otherwise bright prospects of the super-strong materials commonly used in products, from electronics to plastics. A Pitt research team has found that carbon nanotubes deteriorate when
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MIT engineers have developed carbon nanotubes into sensors for cancer drugs and other DNA-damaging agents inside living cells. The sensors, made of carbon nanotubes wrapped in DNA, can detect chemotherapy drugs such as cisplatin as well as environmental toxins and free radicals that damage DNA. “We’ve made a sensor that can be placed in living
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A multidisciplinary team at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) has developed carbon nanotubes that can be used as sensors for cancer drugs and other DNA-damaging agents inside living cells. The sensors, made of carbon nanotubes wrapped in DNA, can detect chemotherapy drugs such as cisplatin as well as environmental toxins and free radicals that
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A carbon nanotube-coated “smart yarn” that conducts electricity could be woven into soft fabrics that detect blood and monitor health, engineers at the University of Michigan have demonstrated. “Currently, smart textiles are made primarily of metallic or optical fibers. They’re fragile. They’re not comfortable. Metal fibers also corrode. There are problems with washing such electronic
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