Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Researchers get neurons and silicon talking

27.03.2006


European researchers have created an interface between mammalian neurons and silicon chips. The development is a crucial first step in the development of advanced technologies that combine silicon circuits with a mammal’s nervous system.



The ultimate applications are potentially limitless. In the long term it will possibly enable the creation of very sophisticated neural prostheses to combat neurological disorders. What’s more, it could allow the creation of organic computers that use living neurons as their CPU.

Those applications are potentially decades away, but in the much nearer term the new technology could enable very advanced and sophisticated drug screening systems for the pharmaceutical industry.


"Pharmaceutical companies could use the chip to test the effect of drugs on neurons, to quickly discover promising avenues of research," says Professor Stefano Vassanelli, a molecular biologist with the University of Padua in Italy, and one of the partners in the NACHIP project, funded under the European Commission’s Future and Emerging Technologies initiative of the IST programme.

NACHIP’s core achievement was to develop a working interface between the living tissue of individual neurons and the inorganic compounds of silicon chips. It was a difficult task.

"We had a lot of problems to overcome," says Vassanelli. "And we attacked the problems using two major strategies, through the semiconductor technology and the biology."

With the help of German microchip company Infineon, NACHIP placed 16,384 transistors and hundreds of capacitors on a chip just 1mm squared in size. The group had to find appropriate materials and refine the topology of the chip to make the connection with neurons possible.

Biologically NACHIP uses special proteins found in the brain to essentially glue the neurons to the chip. These proteins act as more than a simple adhesive, however. "They also provided the link between ionic channels of the neurons and semiconductor material in a way that neural electrical signals could be passed to the silicon chip," says Vassanelli.

Once there, that signal can be recorded using the chip’s transistors. What’s more, the neurons can also be stimulated through the capacitors. This is what enables the two-way communications.

The project tested the device by stimulating the neurons and recording which ones fired using standard neuroscience techniques while tracking the signals coming from the chip.

The development of the interface and chip are crucial for this new technology, but problems remain. "Right now, we need to refine the way we stimulate the neurons, to avoid damaging them," says Vassanelli.

That’s one of the problems the team hopes to tackle in a future project. Right now a proposal has been prepared which could tackle this and many other problems, including how to communicate with the neurons using genes.

"Genes are where memory come from, and without them you have no memory or computation. We want to explore a way to use genes to control the neuro-chip," says Vassanelli.

If NACHIP took the first crucial step towards a neuron-powered CPU, future work will pave the way for a genetically-powered hard disk.

"Europe is very well placed in this field of research, because it is essentially a multidisciplinary field, and we have multidisciplinary teams working on it,“ says Vassanelli. ”We also have the infrastructure with institutes like the Max Planck Institute for Biochemistry in Martinsried, which is one of the world leaders in the field. Europe should be very proud of these resources. It gives us access to equipment and expertise that would be very hard to replicate elsewhere."

Tara Morris | alfa
Further information:
http://istresults.cordis.europa.eu.int/index.cfm/section/news/tpl/article/BrowsingType/Features/ID/81180

More articles from Health and Medicine:

nachricht Hot cars can hit deadly temperatures in as little as one hour
24.05.2018 | Arizona State University

nachricht 3D images of cancer cells in the body: Medical physicists from Halle present new method
16.05.2018 | Martin-Luther-Universität Halle-Wittenberg

All articles from Health and Medicine >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Powerful IT security for the car of the future – research alliance develops new approaches

The more electronics steer, accelerate and brake cars, the more important it is to protect them against cyber-attacks. That is why 15 partners from industry and academia will work together over the next three years on new approaches to IT security in self-driving cars. The joint project goes by the name Security For Connected, Autonomous Cars (SecForCARs) and has funding of €7.2 million from the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research. Infineon is leading the project.

Vehicles already offer diverse communication interfaces and more and more automated functions, such as distance and lane-keeping assist systems. At the same...

Im Focus: Molecular switch will facilitate the development of pioneering electro-optical devices

A research team led by physicists at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) has developed molecular nanoswitches that can be toggled between two structurally different states using an applied voltage. They can serve as the basis for a pioneering class of devices that could replace silicon-based components with organic molecules.

The development of new electronic technologies drives the incessant reduction of functional component sizes. In the context of an international collaborative...

Im Focus: LZH showcases laser material processing of tomorrow at the LASYS 2018

At the LASYS 2018, from June 5th to 7th, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) will be showcasing processes for the laser material processing of tomorrow in hall 4 at stand 4E75. With blown bomb shells the LZH will present first results of a research project on civil security.

At this year's LASYS, the LZH will exhibit light-based processes such as cutting, welding, ablation and structuring as well as additive manufacturing for...

Im Focus: Self-illuminating pixels for a new display generation

There are videos on the internet that can make one marvel at technology. For example, a smartphone is casually bent around the arm or a thin-film display is rolled in all directions and with almost every diameter. From the user's point of view, this looks fantastic. From a professional point of view, however, the question arises: Is that already possible?

At Display Week 2018, scientists from the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Polymer Research IAP will be demonstrating today’s technological possibilities and...

Im Focus: Explanation for puzzling quantum oscillations has been found

So-called quantum many-body scars allow quantum systems to stay out of equilibrium much longer, explaining experiment | Study published in Nature Physics

Recently, researchers from Harvard and MIT succeeded in trapping a record 53 atoms and individually controlling their quantum state, realizing what is called a...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

In focus: Climate adapted plants

25.05.2018 | Event News

Save the date: Forum European Neuroscience – 07-11 July 2018 in Berlin, Germany

02.05.2018 | Event News

Invitation to the upcoming "Current Topics in Bioinformatics: Big Data in Genomics and Medicine"

13.04.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

In focus: Climate adapted plants

25.05.2018 | Event News

Flow probes from the 3D printer

25.05.2018 | Machine Engineering

Less is more? Gene switch for healthy aging found

25.05.2018 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>