Melbourne: A team of scientists, led by an Indian- origin researcher, have developed a new material that could allow brain cells on a chip and form predictable circuits, an advance that may help in the development of neural implants.
Researchers said that such implants can help the brain recover after damage due to an accident, stroke or degenerative neurological diseases such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's.
A team from Australian National University (ANU) grew the brain-on-a-chip - brain cells on a semiconductor wafer patterned with nanowires which act as a scaffold to guide their growth.
Lead researcher Vini Gautam from ANU said, the scaffold provides a platform to study the growth of the brain cells and how they connect with each other.
By using a particular nanowire geometry, researchers showed that the neurons are highly interconnected and predictably form functional circuits.
Gautam said,"The project will provide new insights into the development of neuro-prosthetics which can help the brain recover after damage due to an accident, stroke or degenerative neurological diseases."
Researchers said that the study is the first to show the neuronal circuits grown on the nanowire scaffolds were functional and highly interconnected, opening the potential to apply their scaffold design for neuro-prosthetics.
They hope to use the brain-on-a-chip to understand how neurons in the brain form computing circuits and eventually process information.
Vincent Daria from ANU said,"Unlike other prosthetics like an artificial limb, neurons need to connect synaptically, which form the basis of information processing in the brain during sensory input, cognition, learning and memory."
Daria said,"We were able to make predictive connections between the neurons and demonstrated them to be functional with neurons firing synchronously."
The study was published in the journal Nano Letters.
(With PTI inputs)