In Brief

Researchers have found that nerve cells naturally explore materials like silicon, which could lead to many scientific breakthroughs.

Researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison have found that nerve cells explore tubes of silicon and germanium (materials that can insulate their electric signals), sending their projections through the curved, biologically-friendly creations and continuing to connect with each other. The team aims to find out how exactly they are interacting, whether this is how they function normally or if it is something different.

The findings that nerve cells will follow a pre-designed path of tubes holds many possibilities for scientific research. Nerve-electronic chips could be used as a location for studying how nerve cells in people with disorders like Parkinson’s communicate, or testing the effects of neurological drugs. This technology could even bring researchers closer to a brain-computer interface that would enable patients to control artificial limbs or other prosthetic devices.

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