One step closer to an artificial nerve cell

July 6, 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

Related Stories

Recommended for you

New approach helps rodents with spinal cord injury breathe on their own

October 17, 2017
One of the most severe consequences of spinal cord injury in the neck is losing the ability to control the diaphragm and breathe on one's own. Now, investigators show for the first time in laboratory models that two different ...

Pair of discoveries illuminate new paths to flu and anthrax treatments

October 17, 2017
Two recent studies led by biologists at the University of California San Diego have set the research groundwork for new avenues to treat influenza and anthrax poisoning.

New method to measure how drugs interact

October 17, 2017
Cancer, HIV and tuberculosis are among the many serious diseases that are frequently treated with combinations of three or more drugs, over months or even years. Developing the most effective therapies for such diseases requires ...

A new compound targets energy generation, thereby killing metastatic cells

October 17, 2017
Cancer can most often be successfully treated when confined to one organ. But a greater challenge lies in treating cancer that has metastasized, or spread, from the primary tumor throughout the patient's body. Although immunotherapy ...

Research finds that zinc binding is vital for regulating pH levels in the brain

October 17, 2017
Researchers in Oslo, Norway, have discovered that zinc binding plays an important role in the sensing and regulation of pH in the human brain. The findings come as one of the first studies that directly link zinc binding ...

Researchers find factor that delays wound healing

October 17, 2017
New research carried out at The University of Manchester has identified a bacterium—normally present on the skin that causes poor wound healing in certain conditions.

4 comments

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

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.