One step closer to an artificial nerve cell

Jul 06, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- Scientists at Karolinska Institutet and Linköping University (Sweden) are well on the way to creating the first artificial nerve cell that can communicate specifically with nerve cells in the body using neurotransmitters. The technology has been published in an article in Nature Materials.

The methods that are currently used to stimulate in the nervous system are based on electrical stimulation. Examples of this are cochlear implants, which are surgically inserted into the cochlea in the inner ear, and electrodes that are used directly in the brain. One problem with this method is that all cell types in the vicinity of the electrode are activated, which gives undesired effects.

Scientists have now used an electrically conducting plastic to create a new type of "delivery electrode" that instead releases the neurotransmitters that use to communicate naturally. The advantage of this is that only neighbouring cells that have receptors for the specific , and that are thus sensitive to this substance, will be activated.

The scientists demonstrate in the article in Nature Materials that the delivery can be used to control the hearing function in the brains of .

"The ability to deliver exact doses of neurotransmitters opens completely new possibilities for correcting the signalling systems that are faulty in a number of neurological disease conditions", says Professor Agneta Richter-Dahlfors who has led the work, together with Professor Barbara Canlon.

The scientists intend to continue with the development of a small unit that can be implanted into the body. It will be possible to program the unit such that the release of neurotransmitters takes place as often or as seldom as required in order to treat the individual patient. Research projects that are already under way are targeted towards hearing, epilepsy and Parkinson's disease.

The research is being carried out in collaboration between the research groups of Professor Agneta Richter-Dahlfors and Professor Barbara Canlon, together with Professor Magnus Berggren's group at Linköping University. The work falls under the auspices of the Center of Excellence in Organic Bioelectronics, financed by the Swedish Foundation for Strategic Research and led by Magnus Berggren and Agneta Richter-Dahlfors.

More information:

Daniel T. Simon, Sindhulakshmi Kurup, Karin C. Larsson, Ryusuke Hori, Klas Tybrandt, Michel Goiny, Edwin W. H. Jager, Magnus Berggren, Barbara Canlon and Agneta Richter-Dahlfors
Organic electronics for precise delivery of neurotransmitters to modulate mammalian sensory function
Nature Materials, Advance Online Publication, 5 June 2009.

Provided by Karolinska Institutet

Explore further: Infant cooing, babbling linked to hearing ability

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

New perspective on brain function now possible

May 28, 2007

A newly started research collaboration between Karolinska Institutet and AstraZeneca has already generated results. For the first time, the conditions have been created to study one of the brain's most important neurotransmission ...

Electrical Activity Alters Language Used By Nerve Cells

Dec 19, 2006

UC San Diego biologists have shown that the chemical language with which neurons communicate depends on the pattern of electrical activity in the developing nervous system. The findings suggest that modification ...

The brain's reserve cells can be activated after stroke

Feb 23, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- Scientists at the Swedish medical university Karolinska Institutet have found a way of activating the neuronal reserves in the brains of mice by switching off the signal that inhibits the formation of new ...

Neurons use chemical 'chords' to shape signaling

Feb 27, 2008

Researchers have discovered that neurons can use two different neurotransmitters that target the same receptor on a receiving neuron to shape the transmission of a nerve impulse. Although the researchers’ experiments identified ...

Nitric oxide can alter brain function

Nov 26, 2008

Research from the Medical Research Council (MRC) Toxicology Unit at the University of Leicester shows that nitric oxide (NO) can change the computational ability of the brain. This finding has implications for the treatment ...

Recommended for you

Infant cooing, babbling linked to hearing ability

5 hours ago

Infants' vocalizations throughout the first year follow a set of predictable steps from crying and cooing to forming syllables and first words. However, previous research had not addressed how the amount ...

Developing 'tissue chip' to screen neurological toxins

6 hours ago

A multidisciplinary team at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the Morgridge Institute for Research is creating a faster, more affordable way to screen for neural toxins, helping flag chemicals that ...

Gene mutation discovered in blood disorder

10 hours ago

An international team of scientists has identified a gene mutation that causes aplastic anemia, a serious blood disorder in which the bone marrow fails to produce normal amounts of blood cells. Studying a family in which ...

Airway muscle-on-a-chip mimics asthma

12 hours ago

The majority of drugs used to treat asthma today are the same ones that were used 50 years ago. New drugs are urgently needed to treat this chronic respiratory disease, which causes nearly 25 million people ...

User comments : 4

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Azpod
5 / 5 (1) Jul 06, 2009
We are Borg. You will be assimilated. Resistance is futile. :)

Awesome tech. All joking about becoming cyborgs aside, I expect the potential applications to be quite extensive if it works.
dirk_bruere
not rated yet Jul 06, 2009
So where does the stock of neurotransmitter come from?
zevkirsh
not rated yet Jul 06, 2009
transcranial electrodes be damned!
melajara
not rated yet Jul 07, 2009
I want this to boost my IQ to 250 , enhance my calculation abilities (easier) and develop a synthetic memory (not just to store mere facts but for being able to integrate filtered facts in an all encompassing true knowledge). I think it's a reasonable wish for ... Christmas 2040