Using resources at the Center for Integrated Nanotechnologies (CINT), a team built tiny wires that can record the electrical activity of neurons in fine detail (Nano Letters, “High density individually addressable nanowire arrays record intracellular activity from primary rodent and human stem cell derived neurons”). The small-diameter wires penetrated the neuron cells. Once inside, the wires let scientists measure minute changes in the cells during normal and drug-modified activity.
The new technology could one day serve as a platform to screen drugs for Alzheimer’s and other neurological diseases. It could also enable researchers to better see how single cells communicate in large “mini-brain” networks.
The new assay offers insights to the physiological state of individual neurons in large networks that can potentially form mini-brains. This physiological state provides details about how neurons interact together and how they respond to drugs in dysfunctional or impaired networks.
One of the team’s goals is to use the platform to replicate and modify diseased networks, such as in Alzheimer’s. They are also working to discover new drug therapies to battle neurodegenerative diseases.
Nanowire geometries are ideal for interfacing with cells and measuring intracellular potentials of neurons with minimal invasiveness. This is particularly important for interfaces with human neurons to accelerate drug screening and development.
The team developed a new hybrid integration scheme that offers, for the first time, a nanowire-on-lead approach.