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Graphene Can Be Used To Restore Functions In The Brain

Update Date: Jan 31, 2016 03:12 PM EST
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Graphene, a two-dimensional form of carbon, can successfully be harnessed for an interface with the brain's neurons for the first time, according to researchers from the University of Cambridge. The work could help scientists to create graphene-based electrodes that may enable them to restore functions in amputees or paralyzed patients, or even those with motor disablements, such as Parkinson's disease.

Earlier studies have shown that treated graphene might interact with neurons. The signal to noise ratio was extremely low, which makes it effectiveness as well as safety low too.

Currently, the scientists are using untreated graphene and have been able to retain the electrode's electric conductivity, which makes it effective.

"For the first time, we interfaced graphene to neurons directly," Laura Ballerini, co-author of the study, said in a press release. "We then tested the ability of neurons to generate electrical signals known to represent brain activities and found that the neurons retained their neuronal signaling properties unaltered. This is the first functional study of neuronal synaptic activity using uncoated graphene-based materials."

Using modern electrodes for this sort of interface makes them suffer from partial or complete signal loss over a period, because of the formation of scar tissue from the insertion. Graphene can be an alternative material to solve such problems.

"We are currently involved in frontline research in graphene technology towards biomedical applications," said Maurizio Prato, who was one of the researchers. "In this scenario, the development and translation in neurology of graphene-based high-performance biodevices require the exploration of the interactions between graphene nano- and micro-sheets with the sophisticated signaling machinery of nerve cells. Our work is only a first step in that direction."

The findings were published in Dec. 23,2015 issue of ACS Nano.

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