According to a futuristic perspective, emerging studies on neural implants – special devices that could be inserted, for example, in the brain, eyes, or spine – herald the development of technologies to counter degenerative diseases, repair damaged tissues, and even enhance our senses.
However scientists in this field are facing huge challenges, as noted in the MIT Technology Review. Silicon, used to create trial systems, does not integrate effectively into man’s soft tissues, in that it is stiff, sharp, and risks to damage the surrounding substrate. Such substrate is usually moist, warm, and saline and, in time, can damage the electronic components of the device.
A flexible material, more compatible with human tissues, is therefore needed. And such material, according to Lucas Hess and his colleagues at the Technische Universität München (Germany), could actually be graphene, due to its special intrinsic properties.
Graphene is made up of a single layer of carbon atoms and is, in fact, thin, ultra-flexible, and extremely strong – ideal for this kind of implants. Thus researchers started to test its biocompatibility with excellent results. Moreover, their tests demonstrated that graphene-based devices are also much more sensitive to electric changes than silicon-based ones, are not damaged by body fluids, and even use these for their operation.
This first step is surely bound to trigger a revolutionary process in the field of biotechnologies applied to medical research.
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The Editorial Staff
Published on Wednesday, February 27, 2013