European researches have developed "neuro-chips" in which living brain cells and silicon circuits interact with one another. While the research is far from it at this point, these advancements could one day lead to advanced silicon prosthesis used to defeat certain neurological disorders or organic computers which make computations with living neurons.
The 1 millimeter square chip has over 16,000 transistors and hundreds of capacitors on it. Using special proteins found in the brain, the researchers were able to bond the silicon chips to the brain cells, called neurons. However, it was discovered that the proteins did more than act as an adhesive.
"They also provided the link between ionic channels of the neurons and semiconductor material in a way that neural electrical signals could be passed to the silicon chip," said study team member Stefano Vassanelli from the University of Padua in Italy.
The proteins allowed the brain cells and silicon chip to interact with each other by recording the brain's electrical impulses on the transistors. In turn, the capacitors could be used to stimulate the brain cells.
While the researches admit that implanting chips in human brains to cure disorders may be decades off, shorter term uses could be in the pharmaceutical industry, where chips could be used to monitor drug effects on the brain.
The researchers are now focused on eliminating any damaging effects to the neurons during stimulation as well as using the cells' genetic instructions to control the chip.
News source: LiveScience.com