The nervous system is composed of billions of neurons and an equally high number of support cells. Neurons are highly specialized in the development and transmission of cellular signals, organized by neural circuits that control and coordinate the functions sensory, perceptual and behavioral. In other words, a large number of events in the human body relies on communication between neurons, whose interaction depends on the transmission of chemical and electrical signals. In the laboratories of the Swedish Karolinska Institutet researchers, using a range of innovative approaches, they have moved huge strides in neuroscience. These innovations are wide margin in the development of artificial neuron able to receive and transmit in its turn chemical signals, defined as neurotransmitters or signal substances, behaving just like a natural cell.
Inside the neuron, these chemical signals are converted to an electrical stimulus that travels along the axon of the neuron. Now in the synapse, the electrical signal is converted with the release of signal substances, which then transmit the neural stimulation to the nerve cell adjacent. Recall that to date the main technique for the neuronal stimulation in human cells is based on that power. However, scientists at the Swedish Medical Nanoscience Centre (SMNC) at Karolinska Institutet, in collaboration with colleagues at the University of Linköping, thanks to artificial neuron have created an organic bioelectronic device knows that receive chemical signals, and then transmit them to the human cells.
Our artificial neuron is made of conductive polymers and works as a human neuron,” explains Agneta Richter-Dahlfors, professor of cellular microbiology. “The sensitive component of the artificial neuron detects a change in the chemical signals and this results in an electrical signal. This electrical signal is then converted to the release of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, which can monitor the effect on the cells of human lives.
The artificial neuron, unlike the natural one, is not formed by living parts but from a highly conductive plastic material able to derive electrical pulses. Passage is important to stress that these properties can be exploited to repair damage caused by pathological diseases that affect the brain.
In particular, the discovery of artificial neuron represent a viable hope for those suffering from epileptic syndromes and Parkinson’s disease, as it could be used to repair areas of the brain damaged by such disorders, overriding the methods used still, working even on those areas where there is the presence of healthy cells. In fact, until now he was trying to deal with problems related to the diseases mentioned above by transmitting electrical signals from the outside to try to restore neural function but the technique has always proved rather “crude” because this type of stimulation is to disturb indiscriminately all nerve cells of the affected area including even those not involved in the disorder.
The authors of the discovery that could improve the lives of a large portion of people suffering from epileptic syndromes and Parkinson’s disease, tell the result of their research in the journal Biosensors & Bioelectronics highlighting in particular the prospect of being able to deal effectively with neurological disorders . This perspective sees the future, the artificial neuron, as a support act for doctors to bypass the damaged nerve cells and restore neural function.
We hope to miniaturize the device to allow implantation in the human body,” says Agneta Richer-Dahlfors who also hopes to be able to provide the invention of wireless connectivity in order to control the artificial neuron from a distance.
Naturally it will take another year to make the extraordinary possibilities normally feasible in a care center. But the ultimate goal is now less difficult to achieve and above all open to a precious hope.