Recently, the group of scientist at the University of Bath has designed a small, silicon chip that has paved new ways for heart failure and spinal cord-related treatments. These newly built silicon microchips are human-made identical twins of human nerve cells. The chips having functionality similar to the real biological human nerve cells are so small that they can easily fit on a fingertip.
The team has developed this low-power microchip cells so that it can be utilized in implants and bio-electronic devices to eliminate the diseases that affect nervous system such as spinal cord injuries or Alzheimer in new ways.
The neurons or nerve cells which are present in the nervous system and brain keep sending electrical signals rapidly by transmitting the information collected from brain to the body and back. This phenomenon of signaling requires ion channels that act as electric signals converters for chemical or mechanical signals. These complex but important activities keep triggering all the nerve impulses constantly. But the researchers were not able to detect the nerve responses to certain stimuli because of this complexity.
As per Alain Nogaret—Co-author of the study and Physicist, University of Bath—this discovery has changed the typical patterns of studying nerve cells as black boxes and has provided a dynamic method through which reproduction of electrical properties of real nerve cells with minute details becomes an easier task.
This study gives detailed information about the reproduction of identical electric properties of neurons. In an experiment, the researchers managed to recreate the individual neuron components such as hippocampal neurons—which are required for memory—and respiratory neurons which helps in breathing.
The team later on compared the signals with respective systems in rat models with nearly 60 distinct stimulation protocols to examine the responses. The chip accurately repeated the responses similar to real cells each time. The study was published in Nature Communications.