Nerve-cell tendrils readily thread their way through tiny semiconductor tubes, researchers find, forming a crisscrossed network like vines twining toward the sun. The discovery that offshoots from nascent mouse nerve cells explore the specially designed tubes could lead to tricks for studying nervous system diseases or testing the effects of potential drugs. Such a system may even bring researchers closer to brain-computer interfaces that seamlessly integrate artificial limbs or other prosthetic devices.
“This is quite innovative and interesting,” says nanomaterials expert Nicholas Kotov of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. “There is a great need for interfaces between electronic and neuronal tissues.”
To lay the groundwork for a nerve-electronic hybrid, graduate student Minrui Yu of the University of Wisconsin–Madison and his colleagues created tubes of layered silicon and germanium, materials that could insulate electric signals sent by a nerve cell. The tubes were various sizes and shapes and big enough for a nerve cell’s extensions to crawl through but too small for the cell’s main body to get inside.
When the team seeded areas outside the tubes with mouse nerve cells, the cells went exploring, sending their threadlike projections into the tubes and even following the curves of helical tunnels, the researchers report in an upcoming ACS Nano. ...
via Nerve-Electronic Hybrid Could Meld Mind and Machine | Wired Science | Wired.com.
I've been wondering tonight how neurosurgeons connect nerves when they re-attach limbs. Do they just get the nerves close to each other and let nature take it's course?