Network of Neurons and Carbon Nanotubes: interfacing neuronal growth and function
SISSA Trieste (Italy)
Visionary multimodal interventions towards the repair of the nervous system aim at designing hybrid microsystems functionally integrated to the brain. A substantial challenge in this area of Neuroscience is the successful development of structural scaffolds interfacing neural signaling while favoring nerve tissue reconstruction. The future success of such smart devices resides also in the use of novel nano-materials.
Our results concerning the interface between nano-materials and neurons are related to the ability of carbon-based nano-structures, such as multi-walled carbon nanotubes (MWCNT) to govern in vitro synapse formation, cell excitability and neuronal information processing. In our studies, we have shown that neurons in vitro coopt carbon nanotubes to tune genuine biological processes such as axons excitability.
More recently we used a carbon nanotube freestanding, conductive framework consisting of a three-dimensional mesh of self-assembled, interconnected pure MWCNTs. Such artificial skeleton was able to reconstruct in vitro hybrid webs guiding neuritis regrowth functionally reconnecting motor circuits of segregated spinal cord explants. Further, we were the first to test 3D MWCNT structures in the physiological environment that is in the adult rat brain in vivo by implantation of such scaffolds in the cortex where 3D MWCNT devices induced a low tissue reactivity allowing colonization by resident neurons.