In work supported by the Air Force Office of Scientific Research and the NIH, among others, Dr. Charles Lieber has created neural probes that approximate the size, shape, and flexibility of real neurons. In mouse studies, this allows the probes to integrate into the brain and record the functions of adjacent neurons over 90 days without an immune response that damages and disrupts nearby tissue. Not only did the probes each pick up the signals from multiple distinct neurons, but unexpectedly the number of signals they were tracking increased over time, suggesting that additional neurons were connecting to the probes. Dr. Lieber is optimistic about future applications: “frankly, this is the most exciting research I have been involved in. My lab members, collaborators and I all have a plethora of ideas for practical applications of this new ‘stealth’ technology. Ideas range from understanding brain development over time to targeting specific neurons involved in diseases like addiction, depression, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s to assess disease progression, while simultaneously accelerating recovery with electric stimulation in the damaged area."
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