/New material senses neurotransmitters in the brain

New material senses neurotransmitters in the brain

Summary: A new material developed by scientists from three different disciplines can sense glutamate in the brain, and may lead to new tools to combat neurological disorders.

Original author and publication date: DOE Science News Source – October 1, 2020

Futurizonte Editor’s Note: A new material senses how the human brain works. Soon, we will have a fully artificial human brain.

A new glutamate-sensing material could lead to new insights into the workings of the human brain. Credit: (Image by Shutterstock / Jolygon.)
A new glutamate-sensing material could lead to new insights into the workings of the human brain. Credit: (Image by Shutterstock / Jolygon.)

From the article:

A new material developed by scientists from three different disciplines can sense glutamate in the brain, and may lead to new tools to combat neurological disorders.

What happens when you bring three scientists of diverse disciplines together, and give them the resources of two of the country’s top research facilities? In this case, they discover a new material that may help scientists learn more about neurological disorders, and possibly take some big steps toward brain-machine interfaces.

This pivotal discovery, making use of two user facilities at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory, was led by three scientists from Purdue University. Their fields of study are so disparate that without this project, they may never have collaborated. The results of their combined efforts — published in Applied Materials and Interfaces, a magazine of the American Chemical Society — could lead to breakthroughs in each of their disciplines.

“This has given us all new tools for collaboration, and allowed us to create better tools for studying the mechanism of neurological disorders.” — Hyowon Lee, assistant professor of biomedical engineering, Purdue University.

The three Purdue scientists at the helm of this research team — Shriram Ramanathan, professor of materials engineering; Hyowon ​“Hugh” Lee, assistant professor of biomedical engineering; and Alexander Chubykin, assistant professor of biological sciences — were connected through a Purdue initiative to bring scientists working on disparate ideas together. Chubykin and Lee had been collaborating on new ways to sense neurotransmitters in the brain, seeking materials that could trace these chemicals with greater sensitivity and speed.

Unbeknownst to both of them, Ramanathan had been working on just such a material for years, discovering doping methods for perovskites, a semiconducting material also used in some other types of applications such as solar cells and light-emitting diodes (LEDs), to be more sensitive to certain chemicals. This material — a perovskite nickelate coated with a nafion layer — turned out to be just what his colleagues were seeking. Through a series of tests, the team discovered that this material is perfect for tracking glutamate, a chemical that the brain’s nerve cells use to communicate with other cells.

“Our skill sets are so different that collaboration was essential to take these types of materials into new areas,” said Ramanathan.

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