Biocompatibility of native and functionalized single-walled carbon nanotubes for neuronal interface

J Nanosci Nanotechnol. 2006 May;6(5):1365-74. doi: 10.1166/jnn.2006.155.


Single-walled carbon nanotubes (SWNTs) have unique mechanical, electrical, and optical properties and can be easily chemically modified; features that make them excellent candidate materials for applications as sensors and stimulators in neuronal tissue engineering. The purpose of this study was to demonstrate that SWNTs can support neuronal attachment and growth, that simple chemical modifications can be employed to control cell growth, that SWNTs do not interfere with ongoing neuronal function, and that neurons can be electrically coupled to SWNTs. Growth and attachment of the neuroblastoma*glioma NG108, a model neuronal cell, was assessed on unmodified SWNT substrates or substrates from SWNTs modified with 4-benzoic acid or 4-tert-butylphenyl functional groups using a simple functionalization method. SWNT films support cell growth, but at a reduced level compared to tissue culture-treated polystyrene. The order of viability and cell attachment was tissue culture treated polystyrene > SWNTs > 4-tert-butylphenyl-functionalized SWNTs > 4-benzoic acid-functionalized SWNTs. Decreased cell growth after culture on untreated (non adherent) polystyrene suggested that cell attachment was a critical determinant of proliferation and cell growth on SWNTs. Fluorescence and scanning electron microscopy revealed decreased neurite outgrowth in NG108 grown on SWNT substrates. We are also among the first groups to demonstrate electrical coupling of SWNTs and neurons by demonstrating that NG108 and rat primary peripheral neurons showed robust voltage-activated currents when electrically stimulated through transparent, conductive SWNT films. Our data suggest that SWNTs are flexible resource materials for tissue engineering application involving electrically excitable tissues such as muscles and nerves.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Action Potentials / physiology*
  • Animals
  • Apoptosis
  • Biosensing Techniques / instrumentation
  • Biosensing Techniques / methods*
  • Cell Adhesion
  • Cell Culture Techniques / instrumentation
  • Cell Culture Techniques / methods
  • Cell Line
  • Cell Survival
  • Electrodes
  • Materials Testing
  • Nanotubes, Carbon / chemistry*
  • Nanotubes, Carbon / ultrastructure*
  • Neurons / cytology*
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Rats
  • Surface Properties
  • Tissue Engineering / instrumentation
  • Tissue Engineering / methods*


  • Nanotubes, Carbon