In a world first, scientists from The Australian National University have successfully grown a “brain-on-a-chip”.
The new tech could help sufferers of degenerative diseases like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.
The chip — a semiconductor wafer with nanowires thinner than a human hair — allows brain cells to grow and form predictable circuits.
The study is the first to show that neuronal circuits grown on nanowire scaffolds were functional and highly interconnected.
The breakthrough could potentially be applied as prosthetics for the brain.
“Unlike other prosthetics like an artificial limb, neurons need to connect synaptically, which forms the basis of information processing in the brain during sensory input, cognition, learning and memory,” project leader Dr Vincent Daria said.
“Using a particular nanowire geometry, we have shown that the neurons are highly interconnected and predictably form functional circuits.”
Dr Daria said it was important to build an environment where neurons can be predictably connected into circuits.
“We were able to make predictive connections between the neurons and demonstrated them to be functional with neurons firing synchronously,” he said.
“This work could open up a new research model that builds up a stronger connection between materials nanotechnology with neuroscience.”
The nanowires were fabricated by a group led by Professor Chennupati Jagadish at the Research School of Physics and Engineering at ANU.
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