About 1/5 of a human hair, the flexible probe is so small that it can be inserted into the human spinal cord.
Behind the project are representatives of the University of California San Diego and the Salk Institute for Biological Studies, who published an article on this topic in the pages of Nature Communications. Team members suggest that the device they developed could be used to study hard-to-reach and dynamic regions of the nervous system, such as the spinal cord.
Due to the high compatibility with biological tissues, the described probe can be placed in the body for a long time without a high risk of an immune reaction. The device is small enough to fit inside the spinal cord, is able to connect to nerve cells, and bend with movements of the entire spinal cord. And although these ideas have already been implemented before, in this case the wide possibilities of the probe deserve special attention.
The probe is only 1/5 of the width of a human hair
It can record the electrical activity of neurons and stimulate specific groups of neurons with light. Experiments using the new probe included the brains of live mice, among others. The devices were implanted for no more than a month and during this time no serious inflammation of the brain tissue was observed – despite the presence of the “intruder” for a long time.
As if that weren’t enough, the probes can be used to record the electrical activity of highly sensitive neurons. It is even possible to target specific types of neurons to trigger specific bodily responses. In the course of the experiments, the scientists were able to use the tentacles to make the mice move their mustaches. Next, the research authors want to deliver their probe to the spinal cord. Thanks to this, there may be an opportunity to recover from injuries of this part of the nervous system.
We currently know relatively little about how the spinal cord functions, how it processes information, and how its neural activity can be impaired or impaired in certain disease states. Capturing data from this dynamic and small structure has been a technical challenge. We consider our tentacles […] [mogą, przyp. red.] They help us study the spinal cord – not only to understand it at a basic level, but also to be able to modulate its activity.Explains Axel Namirjan, one of the study’s authors
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