Scaini 2018

2018 - Curr Opin Neurobiol. 2018 Jun;50:50-55. doi: 10.1016/j.conb.2017.12.009

Nanomaterials at the neural interface

Scaini D, Ballerini L


Interfacing the nervous system with devices able to efficiently record or modulate the electrical activity of neuronal cells represents the underlying foundation of future theranostic applications in neurology and of current openings in neuroscience research. These devices, usually sensing cell activity via microelectrodes, should be characterized by safe working conditions in the biological milieu together with a well-controlled operation-life. The stable device/neuronal electrical coupling at the interface requires tight interactions between the electrode surface and the cell membrane. This neuro-electrode hybrid represents the hyphen between the soft nature of neural tissue, generating electrical signals via ion motions, and the rigid realm of microelectronics and medical devices, dealing with electrons in motion. Efficient integration of these entities is essential for monitoring, analyzing and controlling neuronal signaling but poses significant technological challenges. Improving the cell/electrode interaction and thus the interface performance requires novel engineering of (nano)materials: tuning at the nanoscale electrode's properties may lead to engineer interfacing probes that better camouflaged with their biological target. In this brief review, we highlight the most recent concepts in nanotechnologies and nanomaterials that might help reducing the mismatch between tissue and electrode, focusing on the device's mechanical properties and its biological integration with the tissue.


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