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Towards new generations of neuro-implantable devices: engineering NEUROns/carbon NANOtubes integrated functional units


The NEURONANO network proposes to integrate carbon nano-tubes (CNT) with multi-electrode array (MEA) technology to develop new generation biochips to help repair damaged central nervous system (CNS) tissues. This objective will be reached by adopting a mul ti-disciplinary approach and by crossing the boundaries among Materials Science, Nano and Micro-technology, and Neuroscience. The impact of carbon nan-otubes on multi-electrode array (MEA) technology and therefore on neuro-implant technology represents a fi rst step toward CNS nanoengineering. Our approach is to push ahead the application and fictionalization of carbon nano-tubes in the CNS by focusing on CNT chemistry, peptide and surface chemistry and two complex networks in cultures: the spinal cord (locomotor networks) and brain (hippocampus and neocortex networks). We will concentrate on the complex electrical activity of these networks once grown on implantable substrates. We are specifically interested in understanding how the components underlying electrical activity are organized when implemented with semi-conductive substrates, and how this organization changes in the presence of molecular cues or chronic stimulations. The research plan has three major aims:
i) to answer fundamental questions ab out the biophysical interactions between nano-materials and neurons
ii) to exploit carbon nano-tubes in the presentation of positive and negative cues, thus providing specific molecular environment to favour axonal regeneration and retargeting;
iii) to deve lop the characterization of novel MEA/nano-tube integrated devices, for multi-site extra-cellular stimulation and recording.

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