Researchers at the University of California San Diego have developed a silicon nanowire array that can sensitively measure the electrical activity of neurons. It is hoped that the device could be used to screen drugs for neurological diseases, as it could measure the response of neurons to different drugs.
Knowing the activity of ion channels in neurons, and their electrical responsivity and interconnectivity, can tell researchers a lot about their health and how they respond to specific drugs. However, current techniques to perform these measurements can only analyze one neuronal cell at a time, and often destroy the cell, meaning that repeated measurements over time can’t be made.
This new technique uses a chip containing a densely-packed silicon nanowire array. These nanowires are small enough to penetrate the cells without killing them, and the device can perform very sensitive measurements on multiple cells. The researchers were able to culture and analyze neurons from mice on the device for six weeks, without destroying the cells.
Shadi Dayeh, lead investigator on the study recently published in Nano Letters, made the following statement: “The development of a nanoscale technology that can measure rapid and minute potential changes in neuronal cellular networks could accelerate drug development for diseases of the central and peripheral nervous systems.”
The team would also like to adapt the device so that it can measure neuronal activity in the brain, allowing them to obtain a more accurate picture of neuronal responses to drugs, and apply the technology to cells from other organs, such as the heart.
Via: UC San Diego…