Graphene carpets: better communication for neurons

Center for Cooperative Research in Biomaterials (CIC biomaGUNE)

After it was proven a couple of years ago that graphene can safely be used for electrode implants in the brain, research in this field has remained very active. Now a new development shows that the use of graphene can be not only safe, but also may be used to boost neurons.

The Carbon Bionanotechnology Laboratory at CIC biomaGUNE directed by the Ikerbasque Professor and AXA Chair holder Maurizio Prato participates in a study that reveals that graphene can enhance the activity of neurons, confirming the unique properties of this nanomaterial.

The research has been published in the prestigious journal Nature Nanotechnology and reports for the first time experimentally the phenomenon of ion 'trapping' by graphene carpets and its effect on the communication between neurons.

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Representation of a neuron. By inducing the phenomenon of "Ion Trapping", their activity can be enhanced by graphene.

The study led by SISSA - International School of Advanced Studies, in collaboration with the University of Antwerp, the University of Trieste, CIC biomaGUNE and the Institute of Science and Technology of Barcelona, analyzed the behavior of neurons grown on a single layer of graphene, observing a strengthening of their activity.

Through theoretical and experimental approaches the researchers have shown that such behaviour is due to reduced ion mobility, in particular of potassium, to the neuron-graphene interface. This phenomenon is commonly called 'ion trapping', already known at the theoretical level, but has been observed experimentally for the first time only now.

 

Image credits:

Graphene image is in the public domain, and was downloaded from MaxPixel.

Neuron image is in the public domain, and was downloaded from MaxPixel.