Nanotubes for Sensing Neurons
The brains of all animals are amazing organs that researchers are working hard to understand. Among their tools are electrodes for measuring the activity of neurons, but traditionally these have been large, unwieldy devices. Researchers at Duke University, with help from other institutions, have created a new electrode that should prove much easier to use, while also adding the useful feature of probing individual neurons.
The new electrodes are made from carbon nanotubes and are just nanometers wide, while being a millimeter long. This enables them to "harpoon" individual cells to study without damaging to the point of harming the cell. Current electrodes, which are either metal or glass, can either measure signals from a group of cells in a living animal (metal) or look into individual cells, but are too delicate to work well in a living organism (glass). The innate strength and flexibility of carbon nanotubes however should allow it to overcome its predecessors' challenges.
As promising as this technology is, it will likely be some time before we see it used as many other technologies have to be improved first. Once everything is ready though, we could see the nanotubes used to not only study brains, but also connect them to computers and prostheses.
Source: Duke University