Examining the neurons electrical response via a silicon nanowire array

Do you know what does a scientist do to inspect the health, response to drugs, and activity of a neuron? Yes, they check the electrical activity of the neuron; however, the techniques available at present are destructive, hence can be utilized to examine a neuron for a short period, and also evaluate the activity of a single cell at a time. But we all know neurons function in a network and not individually and the system commonly utilized for determining the electrical activity of complex neuron groups are not much sensitive as per the requirement.

At the University of California San Diego, a team of scientists has designed a silicon nanowire array can perceptively determine the neurons’ electrical activity. The researchers can be utilized to examine drugs for the neurological disorders as it will be possible to evaluate the neurons’ response to diverse drugs.

It is possible for the researchers to study the activity, response to the drug, and health of a neuron by determining the ion channel currents and the variations in its intracellular potential. The methods available at present are very sensitive but also at the same time, destructive, i.e., the cell membrane can be broken and ultimately the cell is killed. They are also restricted to examine single cell at a time. The new technique is nondestructive as well as can concurrently determine several neurons potential changes.

The system comprises a silicon nanowire array compactly loaded on a tiny chip configured with nickel electrode leads that are covered with silica. The inside cells are pushed by the nanowires with damaging them and are adequately sensitive to even determine the smallest potential alterations that are few mV or a fraction of mV in magnitude. The team was able to culture and examine the neurons from mice on the tool for 6 weeks, without damaging the cells.

Further, the team also hopes to adjust the device so as to evaluate the brain’s neuronal activity and hence, achieve a better comprehension of drug response. Anne Bang said, “We foresee that this nanowire technique can be utilized on stem-cell-derived brain model to determine the most efficient drugs for ailments such as Alzheimer’s and bipolar disorder.”