How To Repair Connections Between Nerve Cells

Carbon nanotubes exhibit interesting characteristics rendering them particularly suited to the construction of special hybrid devices – consisting of biological tissue and synthetic material – planned to re-establish connections between nerve cells, for instance at spinal level, lost on account of lesions or trauma. This is the result of a piece of research published on the scientific journal Nanomedicine: Nanotechnology, Biology, and Medicine conducted by a multi-disciplinary team comprising SISSA (International School for Advanced Studies), the University of Trieste, ELETTRA Sincrotrone and two Spanish institutions, Basque Foundation for Science and CIC BiomaGUNE. More specifically, researchers have investigated the possible effects on neurons of the interaction with carbon nanotubes. Scientists have proven that these nanomaterials may regulate the formation of synapses, specialized structures through which the nerve cells communicate, and modulate biological mechanisms, such as the growth of neurons, as part of a self-regulating process. This result, which shows the extent to which the integration between nerve cells and these synthetic structures is stable and efficient, highlights the great potentialities of carbon nanotubes as innovative materials capable of facilitating neuronal regeneration or in order to create a kind of artificial bridge between groups of neurons whose connection has been interrupted. In vivo testing has actually already begun.

Scientists have proven that these nanomaterials may regulate the formation of synapses, specialized structures through which the nerve cells communicate, and modulate biological mechanisms, such as the growth of neurons, as part of a self-regulating process

Interface systems, or, more in general, neuronal prostheses, that enable an effective re-establishment of these connections are under active investigation” explain Laura Ballerini (SISSA) and Maurizio Prato (UniTSCIC BiomaGUNE), coordinating the research project. “The perfect material to build these neural interfaces does not exist, yet the carbon nanotubes we are working on have already proved to have great potentialities. After all, nanomaterials currently represent our best hope for developing innovative strategies in the treatment of spinal cord injuries“. These nanomaterials are used both as scaffolds, a supportive framework for nerve cells, and as means of interfaces releasing those signals that empower nerve cells to communicate with each other.

Source: https://eurekalert.org/

Nobel Prize For Building A Molecular Motor

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It all has to do with “molecular machines” — teeny devices made out of individual atoms — that mark the start of a wave of nano-innovation that could drastically change, well, a LOT. You want transparent solar panels? Tiny, super-efficient nanocomputers? Cancer-killing robots that wander your bloodstream like assassins? Nanotechnology could be the way.
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Jean-Pierre Sauvage (Strasbourg University in France) , Sir James Frasier Stoddart, and Bernard L. Feringa — will split the $930,000 prize for their work, including building a “molecular motor,” a light-powered device powerful enough to rotate a glass tube.

The molecular motor is at the same stage as the electric motor was in the 1830s, when scientists displayed various spinning cranks and wheels, unaware that they would lead to electric trains, washing machines, fans, and food processors,” the Nobel committee said in thepress release announcing the prize.

Of course, nanomaterials come with some troubling potential side effects, from extra-sharp nanotubes that could act like asbestos in the lungs to teeny tiny pesticide nanodroplets that might never go away. But the Nobel committee, for one, is betting that these technologies, deployed correctly, have a whole lot of good to offer us.

Source: http://grist.org/