For the first time ever researchers at Lund University in Sweden have managed to carry out successful experiments involving the injection of so-called nanowires in the brain.
The scientists hope that it will be possible to insert nanoscale electrodes to study learning and memory functions and to treat patients suffering from chronic pain, depression, and diseases such as Parkinson's.
But it is not known what would happen if the nanoelectrodes would break away from their contact points.
Thus, the researchers investigated this 'worst case by injecting nanowires in rat brains and found that the brain 'clean-up cells' (microglia), take care of the wires.
After twelve weeks only minor differences were observed between the brains of the test group and the control group.
"The results indicate that this is a feasible avenue to pursue in the future. Now we have a better base on which to develop more advanced and more useful electrodes than those we have today," explained Christelle Prinz, lead author of the study.
Electrodes are already used today to counteract symptoms of Parkinson's disease, for instance. Future nanotechnology may enable refined and enhanced treatment and pave the way for entirely new applications.
One advantage of nanoscale electrodes is that they can register and stimulate the tiniest components of the brain.
"Together with other findings and given that the number of microglial cells decreased over time, the results indicate that the brain was not damaged or chronically injured by the nanowires," Christelle Prinz concludes.
The findings are published in Nano Letters.