Tiny nanoprobes that can measure electrical signals inside cells, such as neurons and cardiac cells have been developed by researchers at the University of Surrey and Harvard University. The nanoprobes cause minimal destruction to the cells unlike previous technology for intracellular electrophysiology. They can also pave the way for human-machine interfaces such as neural prosthetics.
There are variety of uses and applications of measuring electrical activity in cells. They range from research and diagnostics to advanced human-machine interfaces. The risk of damaging cell membrane is significant when the current techniques, such as patch clam techniques; are used to measure signals. This eventually kills the cell being assessed. Neural prostheses and other such long- term applications become difficult or impossible in such a situation.
A nanowire array, consisting of U-shaped transistor probes has been created by these researchers in an effort to create something that is less invasive. Apart from being flexible, the probes can also measure multiple signals simultaneously. Clear readings from neurons and other electrogenic cells have been obtained by the researchers so far. The team’s probes can effectively penetrate the cells to get the best possible signal by optimizing the device size and shape.
According to Yunlong Zhao, a researcher involved in the study, the ultra-small, flexible, nanowire probes could be a very powerful tool as they can measure intracellular signals with amplitudes comparable with those measured with patch clamp techniques; with the advantage of the device being scalable, it causes less discomfort and no fatal damage to the cell. It has been deduced that both size and curvature affect device internalization and intracellular recording signal; based on the evidence obtained through this work.
Gaurang Taylor is an MD/MBA candidate at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and Harvard Business School. He contributes regularly to CardioSource World News and Emergency Physicians Monthly. He is interested in developing scalable, tech-based solutions for medicine and education. He loves to share his knowledge and recent trends in the Healthcare Department by posting various articles. He has experience in medical device pathways and is passionate about understanding the human body.