Nanofibres to interact with human brain

For the first time, through a flexible fibre that is not bigger than human hair, it has been possible to send to the human brain, and to receive from it, a combination of optical, electric and chemical signals.

Science has always searched for the way to investigate the human brain operation and the interconnection among the various regions and an excellence result has been reached by a team of researchers of the Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

At the base of the success, a thin fibre of about 200 microns, made of a material that imitates the flexibility and the softness of the fabrics constituting the brain, to be maintained in situ for relatively long times without rejection phenomena, as it happens instead for metal fibres; hence the possibility of an in-depth data collection.

The manufacturing process of the multitasking fibre, consisting of a conductive polyethylene compound with doping based on graphite scales, involved the collaboration of experts in chemistry, biology, science of materials and other scientific disciplines of MIT, and it has been compared to the preparation modalities of the “millefoglie” (i.e. one thousand layers) cake, to highlight the approach based on the deposit of manifold layers.

Starting from a first layer of polyethylene, they have then sprinkled it of graphite and then squeezed it, with successive addition of further layers of the same type, to attain both flexibility and especially conductivity, enhanced by the presence of graphite, exceeding over five times the one of an analogue fibre obtained without stratifications.

The previous researches of neuroscience provided for several different devices, for instance subtle needles for viral vectors, denomination to indicate the tools used to release genetic material into cells in vivo, optical fibres to inject light signals, manifold electrodes to register the responses to stimuli, and this implied an undoubted complication as well as a lack of functional alignment among the various devices, with prevailingly probabilistic results, whereas with the single fibre by MIT precise multitasking becomes possible.

It is possible, for instance, to insert two fibres in different regions, to send a stimulus with the first and to assess precisely the response time, receiving the signal with the second.

Currently the research is oriented to the achievement of a subtler fibre, with properties even more strictly resembling those of the neural tissue where it is introduced.

Once known the results obtained by MIT, numerous research centres spread worldwide have immediately asked for some samples of this fibre, to start experimenting it in their turn.

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