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Monday, June 26, 2006

Mary Shelly section : Frankenstien rats.. brains

A team led by Yael Hanein of Tel Aviv University in Israel used 100-micrometre-wide bundles of nanotubes to coax rat neurons into forming regular patterns on a sheet of quartz.

The neurons cannot stick to the quartz surface but do bind to the nanotube dots, in clusters of about between 20 and 100. Once attached, these neuron bundles are just the right distance from one another to stretch out projections called axons and dendrites to make links with other clusters nearby. Axons and dendrites carry electrical signals between neurons. The electrical activity of the neural network can easily be measured because carbon nanotubes conduct electricity and so can function as electrodes.

Existing methods for growing networks of neurons cannot produce such neat patterns and clean links between cells. This is because neurons are normally deposited on surfaces that do not prevent them from growing out of ordered clusters onto projections, which makes for a messier network. This is not a problem for Hanein's group. "There is no chance of the cells migrating outside of there," she says. (I would sure hope so :)

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