Nano Science and Technology Institute

R&D Profile: Vertically Arranged Gold Nanowires: An Interface for Live Neuronal Recordings

An understanding of the dynamic communication of neural networks in the brain has been a critical challenge to neuroscientists. The potentials of nanotechnology have opened a new technical dimension with which to effectively investigate live neural networks.

Latika Menon is Assistant Professor at the Department of Physics at Northeastern University.

Overview courtesy of L. Menon, Northeastern University, US

An understanding of the dynamic communication of neural networks in the brain has been a critical challenge to neuroscientists. The potentials of nanotechnology have opened a new technical dimension with which to effectively investigate live neural networks.

The development of vertically arranged gold nanowire arrays fabricated by means of electrodeposition inside electrochemically-prepared nanoporous aluminum oxide templates is being tested in its efficacy to stimulate and detect electrical activity at the nanoscale level from simultaneous locations in neurons. The use of nanowire arrays will provide a minimally invasive, massively parallel interface into the nervous tissue and will allow the recording of electrical activity from single neurons and neural networks with high spatial and temporal resolution in a reliable manner. The resolution will be several times higher than currently used microscale electrodes. Vertical configuration of the nanowires in our device is potentially more significant with greater capabilities than other nanowire configurations, for example, a horizontal array. The vertical array configuration will allow for simultaneous recording from various sites on the neuron. The electrical recording technique as opposed to photonic imaging technique to learn about nano-neuro interactions is unique, since, it eliminates the need to add photoreceptor proteins to the cell surface. Instead, the nanowire array may be easily functionalized with biorecognition molecules for neuronal adherence to the surface. Concurrent fluorescent calcium imaging will allow us to (1) visualize the patterns of neuronal activity induced by the nanowire array, and (2) evaluate the ability of the array to detect neuronal firing patterns that are observed with the calcium imaging. In addition we are studying the cell morphology and axonal outgrowth of primary rat hippocampal neurons as they interact with these orthogonally arranged gold nanowires. The information gained from nanoscale neuronal studies will allow us to address important basic questions in neuroscience related to biophysical processes in single nerve cells and learning and memory processes in cultured neuronal networks. Over the long-term, this knowledge and the technology developed will potentially lead to advances in clinical applications, such as advanced neural implants, prosthetic devices and brain machine interface systems.

Conceptual Schematic showing the configuration of the Nano-biodevice: Vertically arranged gold nanowire arrays are connected to microscale electrodes at one end and neuronal cells are cultured at the other end.

nann-biodevice

Conceptual Schematic showing the configuration of the Nano-biodevice: Vertically arranged gold nanowire arrays are connected to microscale electrodes at one end and neuronal cells are cultured at the other end.

In our laboratory, arrays of gold nanowires have been synthesized inside nanoporous aluminum oxide templates. The electrochemical fabrication approach allows for good control over wire dimensions and interwire spacing for optimal recording. The wires have been successfully integrated with gold electrodes at one end by means of electron beam lithography. Primary hippocampal neuronal cells have been successfully cultured at the other end having coated the nanowire array surface with an appropriate coating such as a collagen-laminin matrix. Calcium signals from stimulated neuronal cells have also been demonstrated pointing to healthy cultures.

figure2

Gold Nanowire Arrays with wire diameter ~20nm

figure3

Group of neuronal cells on Au nanowire arrays

figure4

Magnified image of a bundle of axons showing the nanowires underneath

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