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Nanoparticles can activate neurons wirelessly?

When the brain tissue gets injured, doctors tend to implant electrodes in the brain. These electrodes’ job is to send electric signals and help the recovery process. The disadvantage of this process is that the electrodes need to be implanted surgically. However, it seems that all this will be possible to do wirelessly.

Researchers from Cleveland, Ohio have developed a new technique which might allow doctors to activate neurons wirelessly using microscopic beads and light. This method has been already tried on slices of rat brain tissue — scientists first placed tiny beads (about 10nm wide). Of course, beads are made of semiconductors which get electrically excited when light shines on them.
“Essentially, these are the same particles used to sensitize solar cells,” said Clemens Burda, one of the researchers. The illuminated particles produce an electric field or current that activates the neurons, which respond with their own measurable electrical signals. Scientists that worked on this project attached the nanoparticles to a tiny glass micropipette to make it easier to position the particles.

This technique is of huge importance, because it’s got many advantages over the methods that are currently used. Surgery, large electrodes and wires in this process could be history.
“It’s very invasive and the wires themselves are difficult to deal with,” said Ben Strowbridge, one of the researchers. “There’s really no other technology that can do that with this degree of control or spatial resolution.”

This method has to go through numerous tests before it can actually be applied to humans, but it looks promising so far.

The details are published in the journal Angewandte Chemie.

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