13th Nov 2012

Controlling brain cells using quantum dots

Our current methods of stimulating the brain are crude, either being invasive (like placing electrodes inside the head) or imprecise (like magnetic stimulation from outside the head). Recently, Lih Lin and her colleagues at the University of Washington have found a more promising method that involves quantum physics, utilising light-sensitive semi-conductive nanoparticles called quantum dots. Their potential was realised after an experiment on prostate cancer cells, where quantum dots were positioned next to cell membranes and then exposed to light. The energy excited the quantum dots’ electrons and the area then became negatively charged, which caused the cancer cells’ ion channels to open, allowing ions to rush in or out. Since this is essentially how brain cells communicate, the researchers repeated the experiment on nerve cells and found that individual cells can be controlled at a level of precision beyond that of alternative brain-stimulation techniques. Quantum dots can be delivered to the brain cells relatively easily through an injection, but the real problem is how to then expose them to light. For this reason, it’s likely that their first uses will be in the human eye, since the retina naturally absorbs light—and if they can reactivate damaged cells, they could potentially treat blindness. Because many brain disorders are caused by imbalanced neural activity, quantum dots could eventually be used to treats conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease, depression, and epilepsy—thankfully without cracking open your skull.

(Image Credit: 1, 2)

This post has 327 notes
  1. sandhirvideos reblogged this from sciencesoup
  2. seleniceria reblogged this from dduane
  3. whiskeyindianovember reblogged this from sciencesoup
  4. snerkaderp reblogged this from dduane
  5. quevedop reblogged this from sciencesoup
  6. stomachingnothing reblogged this from sciencesoup
  7. benmaples reblogged this from sciencesoup
  8. everyth1ngemily reblogged this from radiographynerd
  9. radiographynerd reblogged this from sciencesoup
  10. stishovite reblogged this from sciencesoup
  11. mrniceguitarguy reblogged this from itsbellsie
  12. itsbellsie reblogged this from sciencesoup
  13. andfrank reblogged this from sciencesoup
  14. emmiloo-and-gekos reblogged this from sciencesoup
  15. zeroatthebone reblogged this from dduane
  16. amongxylophonesandglockenspiels reblogged this from grassangel
  17. pia-mater reblogged this from sciencesoup
  18. grassangel reblogged this from dduane
  19. sonic-thespacehog reblogged this from blessedacceleration
  20. brightfell reblogged this from dduane
  21. madmaninfreefall reblogged this from sosungalittleclodofclay
  22. sosungalittleclodofclay reblogged this from dduane
  23. vortexbooks reblogged this from dduane
  24. soulsuckingisaacnewton reblogged this from dduane
  25. quantumspork reblogged this from dduane
  26. beepony reblogged this from hoarous and added:
    O:
  27. angelanhunt reblogged this from dduane and added:
    FASTER, PLEASE. Gods. This could possibly reverse my Buried Optic Nerve Drusen. I am almost afraid to hope.
  28. hoarous reblogged this from dduane