Researchers from the Australian National University (ANU) have developed a breakthrough in allowing brain cells to "grow and form predictable circuits" in a development which could lead to the creation of prosthetics for the vital organ.
The "brain on a chip" breakthrough was developed after scientists successfully grew brain cells on a semiconductor wafer which was patterned with nanowires. Lead researcher Dr Vini Gautam from the ANU's Research School of Engineering said the wafer "scaffolding" acted as a guide for the growth of the brain cells.
She said the development provides scientists with a platform to further study the growth of brain cells and how they connect with each other.
"The project will provide new insights into the development of neuro-prosthetics which can help the brain recover after damage due to an accident, stroke or degenerative neurological diseases," Gautam said in a statement on Monday.
Meanwhile colleague and project group leader, Dr Vincent Daria said the team hopes to use the "brain on a chip" to understand how neurons in the brain form computing circuits and eventually process information.
"Unlike other prosthetics like an artificial limb, neurons need to connect synaptically, which form the basis of information processing in the brain during sensory input, cognition, learning and memory," Daria said on Monday.
"Using a particular nanowire geometry, we have shown that the neurons are highly interconnected and predictably form functional circuits.
"We were able to make predictive connections between the neurons and demonstrated them to be functional with neurons firing synchronously.
"This work could open up new research model that builds up a stronger connection between materials nanotechnology with neuroscience."