New Automated Process Dissects Inner Mechanics of Neurons in the Brain
May 9, 2012 7:30 AM
comment(s) - last by
Neuromatic Devices research team
(Source: Georgia Tech)
The new automated process is faster than traditional method while delivering comparable results
MIT and Georgia Institute of Technology researchers have created a new automated method that pinpoints certain characteristics of
neurons in the brain
The research was conducted by Ed Boyden, associate professor of biological engineering and brain and cognitive sciences at MIT; Craig Forest, an assistant professor in the George W. Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering at Georgia Tech, and Suhasa Kodandaramaiah, a graduate student. The three developed the new automated process for dissecting the inner mechanics of neurons in the brain.
The researchers based their new automated technique off of a 30-year-old method called whole-cell patch clamping. Whole-cell patch clamping involved a hollow glass pipette, which touches the cell membrane of a neuron. Upon contact the pipette opens up a small pore in the membrane. Then electrical activity within the cell is recorded.
The problem with traditional whole-cell patch clamping is that it isn't an easy process. It takes researchers months to learn. While Kodandaramaiah was learning the difficult process, he said he was thinking of a process where robots take over the painstaking method for a more accurate and faster way of learning about neurons.
To automate the process, the three researchers built a robotic arm capable of directing the glass pipette
into a mouse brain
. The system works by using the robotic arm to move the pipette through cells in the brain as it measures electrical impedance, which is a measure of how challenging it is for electricity to flow out of the pipette. When there are no cells near the pipette, electricity flows and impedance is low, but when the pipette encounters a cell, electricity cannot flow and and imedance increases.
The pipette takes two-micrometer steps and measures impedance 10 times per second. When it encounters a cell, it stops itself from poking the membrane. However, it does use suction to form a seal with the membrane. It then uses an electrode to penetrate the membrane, and begins recording the cell's internal electrical activity.
According to the research team, the automated process is capable of detecting cells with 90 percent accuracy, and can establish a connection with these cells 40 percent of the time.
This process can also be used to identify the shape of a cell by injecting dyes. The researchers are also looking to use the process with a larger number of electrodes so that they can record activity from several neurons at once.
The next step is to commercialize the device. The three researchers are already working on this by creating their own startup company called Neuromatic Devices.
"Our team has been interdisciplinary from the beginning, and this has enabled us to bring the principles of precision machine design to bear upon the study of the living brain," said Forest. "If you really want to know what a neuron is, you can look at the shape, and you can look at how it fires. Then if you pull out the genetic information, you can really know what's going on. Now you know everything. That's
the whole picture
This automated process could potentially help those with
like schizophrenia, autism and Parkinson's disease because the technique could allow researchers to distinguish between abnormal and normal cells.
This article is over a month old, voting and posting comments is disabled
5/9/2012 12:53:11 PM
If someone is ill, however, it might matter little that this process is such. They measure the cells, their activity and their shape/size etc.
What I fail to see being done is the actual synaptic activity. Yes, you can measure the electrical processes within the neuron, but the actual exchange of data occurs at the synapse.
Then again, this provides another tool to narrow down the complexities that are presented by these terrible diseases. Bravo to the scientists! It seems it will dramatically reduce time once perfected of performing these analyses' thus speeding the progression towards finding an ultimate solution.
One thing to be considered though... If they can permeate the membrane and measure electrical activity, they can now stimulate and overrided it with their own. Imagine millions of these probes en masse on a nano scale... :) I think there are much better ways to go about the end result in this fictional scenario but it is a thought.
RE: Fascinatingly invasive!
5/10/2012 8:14:23 PM
I don't think it's
invasive. But trying to cure cells one by one, I don't know ...
5/14/2012 9:01:47 AM
Insert a plug into every human when they are a fetus... and then use that plug to interface with the brain.
"There's no chance that the iPhone is going to get any significant market share. No chance." -- Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer
Pittsburgh Researchers Study Memory Formation Through Neural Networks
May 31, 2011, 12:21 PM
Researchers Map Neural Connections in Mouse Brain
April 11, 2011, 10:01 AM
New Compound Could Protect Brain Cells, Fight Neurodegenerative Diseases
December 8, 2010, 10:09 AM
Nail Polish May Soon be Able to Detect Date Rape Drugs
August 26, 2014, 7:57 AM
SpaceX Falcon 9-R Rocket Suffers Malfunction, Self-Destructs During Test Flight
August 23, 2014, 9:36 AM
Texas Chosen as Site for SpaceX's First Commercial Launchpad
August 5, 2014, 1:44 PM
South Carolina Prison Finds Crashed Drone Carrying Drugs, Phones
August 1, 2014, 2:49 PM
NASA's Mars 2020 Rover Gains Seven New Instruments for Exploration
August 1, 2014, 1:30 PM
NASA Opportunity Rover Breaks Record for Most Miles Traveled on Another Planet
July 29, 2014, 1:38 PM
Most Popular Articles
Numerous Leaks Detail 4.7" iPhone 6 Processor, RAM, Cellular and NFC Capabilities
August 29, 2014, 10:37 PM
Windows 9: "Upgrade Now" Button Coming for Enterprise Updates, ARM Preview in H1 2015
August 26, 2014, 8:00 PM
L.A. Unified School District’s Apple iPad Contract Canceled Following Heavy Criticism
August 26, 2014, 12:37 PM
Apple Builds Not-So-Secret Secret 3-Story Tower for iPhone 6/iWatch Unveil
August 28, 2014, 3:41 PM
Netflix Accuses Comcast of Ripping Off Customers, Files to Block Merger
August 26, 2014, 5:49 PM
Latest Blog Posts
Space Terrorism is a Looming Threat For the United States
Apr 23, 2014, 7:47 PM
Facebook Aims to Provide Internet to "Every Person in the World" with Drones, Satellites
Apr 1, 2014, 10:20 AM
Retail Mobile Sites Experience Outages in Light of Simplexity's Bankruptcy
Mar 14, 2014, 8:48 AM
Tesla vs. BMW: Who Has the Safer EV?
Feb 1, 2014, 2:56 PM
Justice Leaks Details of Next HTC One Two Flagship Phone
Dec 5, 2013, 4:04 PM
More Blog Posts
Copyright 2014 DailyTech LLC. -
Terms, Conditions & Privacy Information