Lab+Life Scientist Jun/Jul 2017

Page 30

cover story

build brain-on-a-chip Australian researchers have grown brain cells on a semiconductor wafer patterned with nanowires which act as a scaffold to guide the growth of brain cells.

L

neurons need to connect synaptically, which form the basis of information processing in the brain during sensory input, cognition, learning and memory,” Dr Daria said. ead researcher from the Research

“Using a particular nanowire geometry,

School of Engineering at The Australian National

we have shown that the neurons are highly

University, Dr Vini Gautam said the scaffold

interconnected and predictably form functional

provides a platform to study the growth of the brain

circuits.”

cells and how they connect with each other, said

Dr Daria said it was important to build up

“The project will provide new insights into the

the appropriate environment where neurons can

development of neuro-prosthetics which can help

be predictably connected into functional circuits.

the brain recover after damage due to an accident,

“We were able to make predictive connections

stroke or degenerative neurological diseases,” Dr

between the neurons and demonstrated them to

Gautam said.

be functional with neurons firing synchronously,”

The study is claimed to be the first to show the

“This work could open up a new research

were functional and highly interconnected, opening

model that builds up a stronger connection between

the potential to apply their scaffold design for

materials nanotechnology with neuroscience.”

neuro-prosthetics.

The research was a multidisciplinary collaboration

Project group leader Dr Vincent Daria from

between physics, engineering and neuroscience.

The John Curtin School of Medical Research hopes

The nanowires were fabricated by a group led by

to use the brain-on-a-chip to understand how

Professor Chennupati Jagadish at the Research

neurons in the brain form computing circuits and

School of Physics and Engineering at ANU. The research has been published in Nano

eventually process information. “Unlike other prosthetics like an artificial limb,

30 | LAB+LIFE SCIENTIST - Jun/Jul 2017

he said.

neuronal circuits grown on the nanowire scaffolds

Letters.

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Image supplied by ANU

Australian researchers