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Jan 24, 2017 01:58 AM EST

Rice University Uses Nanotubes To Probe Deeper Into The Brain

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Scientists at the Rice University, Texas have found a new use for carbon nanotubes - treating brain damage. This material is believed to miniaturize all devices from transistors to gene editing tools. Rice University researchers believe that with the use of carbon nanotubes, treating brain diseases, such as Parkinson's and epilepsy will be much safer and more efficient.

At present, doctors are using electrode wires, which are implanted in the brain, to treat different kinds of brain diseases. Although these wires are effective, there are still some downsides in using them. These wires are around 1.5 millimeters thick which is still considered as rather thick causing blood vessels in the brain to get hit upon insertion and damaging brain cells. Furthermore, these wires are also stiff and inflexible causing inflammation and they get covered with immune cells reducing their efficiency over time.

On the other hand, carbon nanotubes are thinner, around one-billionth of a meter of regular wires. They are also more biocompatible with the brain's neural system. There's one problem. Though - their thinness also caused them to be soft making them impossible to insert inside the brain. However, the scientists were able to develop a method to stiffen them temporarily. They used a tiny channel of flowing water which fills and stiffens the tube.

The team was able to test it in mice brains and it seemed like no damage has been detected. They added that more clinical trials need to be conducted before it can be fully utilized in human trials.

This breakthrough, however, already shows the potential of carbon nanotubes in brain research as well as in the treatment of different brain conditions and diseases. Use of this material will also allow researchers to examine brain activity over a much longer period of time.

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