Scientists Build Carbon Nanotube Harpoon to Catch Individual Brain Cell Signals

Posted on January 25, 2014

Carbon Nanotube Harpoon


Scientists have built an extremely tiny carbon nanotube harpoon to catch individual brain cell signals. The brain cell spear is just one millimeter long and a few nanometers wide. The scientists say the spear "harnesses the superior electromechanical properties of carbon nanotubes to capture electrical signals from individual neurons."

Bruce Donald, a professor of computer science and biochemistry at Duke University, helped developed the tiny brain probe. He says in the announcement, "To our knowledge, this is the first time scientists have used carbon nanotubes to record signals from individual neurons, what we call intracellular recordings, in brain slices or intact brains of vertebrates."

Duke neurobiologist Richard Mooney says, "The results are a good proof of principle that carbon nanotubes could be used for studying signals from individual nerve cells. If the technology continues to develop, it could be quite helpful for studying the brain."

Scientists have experimented using carbon nanotube probes in the past but they caused damage because the electrodes were too thick. The scientists say the new probe is small enough to penetrate individual neurons and record signals from a single cell.

A research paper on the tiny harpoon can be found here in PLoS One.

Photo: Inho Yoon and Bruce Donald, Duke