Artificial Neurons Mimic Human Brain Cells

The world’s first artificial neuron engineered to mimic organic brain cells has been created by researchers from Sweden. The neuron can translate chemical signals into electrical impulses, thereby interacting with other human cells. The findings have been published in the journal Biosensors and Bioelectronics.

artificial-neuron

As small as a fingertip, the artificial neurons are able to communicate with other neurones by turning chemical signals into electrical impulses. Otherwise, scientists in the past had only managed to trigger brain cells with electrical impulses only.

“Our artificial neuron is made of conductive polymers and it functions like a human neuron,” lead researcher Agneta Richter-Dahlfors from the Karolinska Institutet in Sweden said in a press release.

Richter-Dahlfors and her team linked enzyme-based biosensors to organic electronic ion pumps to create an artificial neurone. The communication that ensued chemically with organic brain cells was even successful over large distances.

“The sensing component of the artificial neuron senses a change in chemical signals in one dish, and translates this into an electrical signal,” said Richter-Dahlfors. “This electrical signal is next translated into the release of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine in a second dish, whose effect on living human cells can be monitored.”

Hence, they might be shrunk even more to be implanted into humans in the future as substitutes for damaged ones – the scientists are currently working on how to achieve this aim. Furthermore, new treatment might possibly then be formulated to cater for patients suffering from neurological disorders like Parkinson’s disease.

“Next, we would like to miniaturise this device to enable implantation into the human body,” said Richer-Dahlfors.“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 release of neurotransmitters at distant locations.”

“Using such auto-regulated sensing and delivery, or possibly a remote control, new and exciting opportunities for future research and treatment of neurological disorders can be envisaged,” she added.

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