Artificial nerve cell breakthrough

Tom James @ 06-07-2009

line_curve_buildingResearchers at Karolinska Institutet and Linköping University in Sweden have made one more step towards artificial nerve cells with the creation of an artificial nerve cell that can communicate with natural nerve cells using neurotransmitters:

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

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.

As ever the initial applications are intended to be towards treating diseases like Parkinson’s disease or epilepsy. Progress on these fronts would be wonderful. But what further applications will become possible when this product matures?

[from Physorg][image from takanawho on flickr]

Regenerating Nerves

Stephen Years @ 02-01-2008

Via Technology Review:

In the latest issue of Advanced Materials, researchers Christiane Gumera and Yadong Wang from the Georgia Institute of Technology announced that they have triggered the regrowth of nerve cells using a polymer coated with chemical structures that resemble acetylcholine, a common neurotransmitter. The research, which is the first to combine a neurotransmitter and a polymer, could one day lead to treatments for neurodegenerative diseases and spinal-cord injuries.

“Lots of people have done biopolymer work,” says Christine Schmidt, a biomedical engineer at the University of Texas at Austin. “But this demonstrates that a polymer with a neurotransmitter can be used to guide growth in the nervous system.”