Scientists Create Synthetic Neurons that Can Possibly Fix Neurological Disorders

A team of Swedish researchers from Karolinska Institutet  created artificial neurons that function like human brain cells.

The synthetic neurons are capable of chemically communicating with organic neurons that could change neutral pathways to better treat neurological disorders. They can detect chemical signals, transmit the signals electrically from one end of the “cell” to another, then release chemical neurotransmitters in response.

PHOTO CREDIT: Techworm
PHOTO CREDIT: Techworm

Neurons are specialised cells responsible for transmitting information to other cells. They release chemical signals or neurotransmitters across a small intercellular gap called synapse in order to communicate. Adjoining cells convert these chemicals into an electrical signal that propagates along the neuron’s spindly axon. The electrical signal is then converted into a chemical signal that will be released across the synapse. This will then trigger the entire process to start all over again.

To build the neurons, the scientists used conductive molecules and connected the enzyme-based biosensors to organic bioelectronics. The researchers induce chemical changes in the surrounding environment which is then picked up by the sensors. An electronic pump that controls the flow of charged ions then translates it into an electrical signal. The electrical signal is then converted into a chemical signal that can act on human cells.

Lead researcher Agneta Richter-Dahlfors  said: “We foresee that in the future, by adding the concept of wireless communication, the biosensor could be placed in one part of the body, and trigger the release of neurotransmitters at distant locations.”

With their latest discovery, the researchers hope that the synthetic neurons can be made smaller so that can be implanted and used in a real brain.

In the future, the team of scientists hopes that these devices can be used to replace damaged nerves in patients to help treat diseases or injury.

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