We propose the development of novel nanodevices, such as nanoscale bridges and nanovectors, based on functionalized carbon nanotubes (CNT) for manipulating neurons and neuronal network activity in vitro. The main aim is to put forward innovative solutions that have the potential to circumvent the problems currently faced by spinal cord lesions or by neurodegenerative diseases.

The unifying theme is to use recent advances in chemistry and nanotechnology to gain insight into the functioning of hybrid neuronal/CNT networks, relevant for the development of novel implantable devices to control neuronal signaling and improve synapse formation in a controlled fashion. The proposal’s core strategy is to exploit our expertise in the chemical control of CNT properties to develop devices reaching various degrees of functional integration with the physiological electrical activity of cells and their networks, and to understand how such global dynamics are orchestrated when integrated by different substrates. An unconventional strategy will be represented by the electrical characterization of micro and nano patterned substrates by AFM and conductive tip AFM, both before and after neurons have grown on the substrates. We will also use the capability of AFM to identify critical positions in the neuronal network, while delivering time-dependent chemical stimulations. We will apply nanotechnology to contemporary neuroscience in the perspective of novel neuroimplantable devices and drug nanovectors, engineered to treat neurological and neurodegenerative lesions. The scientific strategy at the core of the proposal is the convergence between nanotechnology, chemistry and neurobiology. Such convergence, beyond helping understand the functioning and malfunctioning of the brain, can stimulate further research in this area and may ultimately lead to a new generation of nanomedicine applications in neurology and to new opportunities for the health care industry.The proposal will be developed entirely at the University of Trieste, Italy, in close collaboration between Maurizio Prato, an organic and medicinal chemist, Principal Investigator (PI), and Laura Ballerini, neurophysiologist, neurobiology-team leader.


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