Artificial neuron to cure diseases
An international team of researchers has developed an implantable silicon chip that simulates the behavior of real nerve cells with unprecedented precision. Doctors have been working for a long time to develop artificial neurons and thus be able to better treat neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's dementia. So far, however, it has not been possible to precisely predict the complex stimulus-response patterns of nerve cells. This is because signal transmission through ion channels is non-linear and dynamic; previous models have only been able to represent this in an inadequate and simplified way.
The working group led by Alain Nogaret from the University of Bath has optimized the prediction models in such a way that their chips simulate neurons in the rat hippocampus almost perfectly - and they do so with extremely low energy consumption. The circuits are also programmed to respond to a wide range of different signals and biofeedback.
According to the authors of the study, they are therefore ideally suited as medical implants - for example as pacemakers for heart defects: because the researchers were able to simulate neurons in the respiratory center of rats with their development. These are located in the brainstem and couple the breathing rhythm with the heart rhythm. In the course of the aging process or a disease, this coupling can be disturbed, which can lead to sleep apnea or heart failure. The artificial nerve cells could step in here in the future and restore the common rhythm via biofeedback, according to the scientists.