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Listening in to brain chatter


A microchip will soon be wedded to human neurons

It looks like Canadian researchers are at the threshold of a scientific breakthrough that may pave the way to better meds and superior control of artificial limbs.

Dr. Naweed Syed, a neurobiologist at the University of Calgary, was part of the team that wowed the international scientific world six years ago by successfully fusing mollusc brain cells (in this case pond snails) with a one-millimeter square silicon chip. Now he’s at it again. Dr. Syed, who heads cell biology and anatomy at the U of C, intends to marry human neurons this time around – taken from the brain tissue of a patient undergoing surgery for epilepsy – with the silicon-polymer chip (Biomedical Microdevices).

This will be another step towards being able to not only “listen in on conversations” between synaptic connections as well as ion channels but may lead to more accurate use of drugs. “It means we can track subtle changes in brain activity at the level of ion channels and synaptic potentials, which are also the most suitable target sites for drug development in neurodegenerative diseases and neuropsychological disorders,” says Dr. Syed, who works out of a lab at the U of C's Hotchkiss Brain Institute. The research is also being supported by the National Research Council.

The prototype biochip in its new, more refined state will record messages of excitation and inhibition between neurons. It will also allow for communication between computers and itself. This could mean that future hybrid chips might operate protheses, help improve sight or language after a stroke, and repair malfunctioning neurons for those with Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease.

The current chip is automated, making its use quick and easy, unlike the previous version, but 750 reuseable chips currently cost $300,000 – a definite deterrent for anyone planning to use them to build an Bionic Man.

Milena Katz


5 comments:

sharon ( aka Purley Quirt ) said...

Seriously..... where is Sam?

We do not need essays for presentation based on perusal/reiteration of common news.

We need " behind-the-scenes " reporting of reactions, and "fleshing out" how we got to/get to from "here" to "there"

Let's have an investigation into the CMA perspective on a prescription-free zone... what birthed that? where is it going?

How about tracing the habituation features of the H1N1 WHO announcement and how the new ' superbug' from ?India will be handled.

Environmental analysis anyone?

Operational reviews are for pathologists.

PathoMouse said...

I found this article fascinating. Have been perusing this blog for a couple of days now, and appreciate every tidbit it can give me about Canadian medicine. (Does anyone else find the comment style by "Sharon" somewhat irritating?)

sharon ( aka Purley Quirt ) said...

Pathomouse.....

why strain at a gnat ...... when you can swallow a camel :)

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