Interactions Between Cultured Neurons and Carbon Nanotubes: A Nanoneuroscience Vignette

J Nanoneurosci. 2009 Jun 1;1(1):10-16. doi: 10.1166/jns.2009.002.


Carbon nanotubes, owing to their electrical, chemical, mechanical, and thermal properties, are one of the most promising nanomaterials for the electronics, computer, and aerospace industries. More recently, these unique materials are finding their niche in neuroscience. Here, we discuss the use of carbon nanotubes as scaffolds for neuronal growth. The chemical properties of carbon nanotubes can be systematically varied by attaching different functional groups. Such functionalized carbon nanotubes can be used to control the outgrowth and branching pattern of neuronal processes. We also discuss electrical interactions between neurons and carbon nanotubes. The electrical properties of nanotubes can provide a mechanism to monitor or stimulate neurons through the scaffold itself. The ease of which carbon nanotubes can be patterned makes them attractive for studying the organization of neural networks and has the potential to develop new devices for neural prosthesis. We note that additional toxicity studies of carbon nanotubes are necessary so that exposure guidelines and safety regulations can be set.