Graphene carpets: So neurons communicate better

phys.org | 6/13/2018 | Staff
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A study led by SISSA and published in Nature Nanotechnology reports for the first time the phenomenon of ion trapping by graphene carpets and its effect on the communication between neurons. The researchers have observed an increase in the activity of nerve cells grown on a single layer of graphene. Combining theoretical and experimental approaches, they have shown that the phenomenon is due to the ability of the material to 'trap' several ions present in the surrounding environment on its surface, modulating its composition. Graphene is the thinnest bi-dimensional material available today, characterised by incredible properties of conductivity, flexibility and transparency. Although there are great expectations for its applications in the biomedical field, only very few works have analysed its interactions with neuronal tissue.

The study conducted by SISSA—Scuola Internazionale Superiore di Studi Avanzati, in association with the University of Antwerp (Belgium), the University of Trieste and the Institute of Science and Technology of Barcelona (Spain). The researchers analysed the behaviour of neurons grown on a single layer of graphene, observing a strengthening in their activity. Through theoretical and experimental approaches, the researchers have shown that such behaviour is due to reduced ion mobility, in particular of potassium, to the neuron-graphene interface. This phenomenon is commonly called ion trapping, already understood at the theoretical level, but observed experimentally for the first time only now.

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"It is as if graphene behaves as an...
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