Story content courtesy of Duke Medicine, US
The findings, published in a journal online this month, were demonstrated in individual nerve cells as well as in the brains of mice and rats, and may have future applications in intracranial or spinal devices to help treat neural injuries.
“Carbon nanotubes hold great promise for an array of applications, and we are only beginning to see their enormous potential,” said lead author Wolfgang Liedtke, M.D., PhD, associate professor of medicine and neurobiology at Duke. “Their exceptional mechanical and electrical properties make them ideal for developing devices that interface with nervous tissues. However, the precise mechanisms behind carbon nanotubes and their effect on neurons remain elusive.”
Duke researchers initially set out to gauge if carbon nanotubes had toxic or adverse effects on living tissue. Studying neurons cultured from rodents, representing a “cerebral cortex in a dish,” they found the opposite. Exposing the cells to carbon nanotubes appeared to have a nourishing effect on the neurons, making them bigger and stronger.
These findings may lead to the development of a new generation of neural engineering devices using carbon nanotubes.
The research received funding from Duke University, the Klingenstein Fund, the National Institutes of Health (R21NS066307), and the Center for the Environmental Implications of NanoTechnology (CEINT).