July 11, 2005
"Nanowires in blood vessels may help monitor, stimulate neurons in the brain."
Working with platinum nanowires 100 times thinner than a human hair--and using blood vessels as conduits to guide the wires--a team of U.S. and Japanese researchers has demonstrated a technique that may one day allow doctors to monitor individual brain cells and perhaps provide new treatments for neurological diseases such as Parkinson's.
Writing in the July 5, 2005, online issue of The Journal of Nanoparticle Research, the researchers explain it is becoming feasible to create nanowires far thinner than even the tiniest capillary vessels. That means nanowires could, in principle, be threaded through the circulatory system to any point in the body without blocking the normal flow of blood or interfering with the exchange of gasses and nutrients through the blood-vessel walls.
The team describes a proof-of-principle experiment in which they first guided platinum nanowires into the vascular system of tissue samples, and then successfully used the wires to detect the activity of individual neurons lying adjacent to the blood vessels.
Rodolfo R. Llinás of the New York University School of Medicine led the team, which included Kerry D. Walton, also of the NYU medical school; Masayuki Nakao of the University of Tokyo; and Ian Hunter and Patrick A. Anquetil of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
"Nanotechnology is becoming one of the brightest stars in the medical and cognitive sciences," said Mike Roco, Senior Advisor for Nanotechnology at the National Science Foundation (NSF), which funded the research.
Already, the researchers note, physicians routinely use arterial pathways to guide much larger catheter tubes to specific points in the body. This technique is frequently used to study blood flow around the heart, for example.
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