During the last decades, neuroscientists have increasingly exploited a variety of artificial, de-novo synthesized materials with controlled nano-sized features. For instance, a renewed interest in the development of prostheses or neural interfaces was driven by the availability of novel nanomaterials that enabled the fabrication of implantable bioelectronics interfaces with reduced side effects and increased integration with the target biological tissue. The peculiar physical-chemical properties of nanomaterials have also contributed to the engineering of novel imaging devices toward sophisticated experimental settings, to smart fabricated scaffolds and microelectrodes, or other tools ultimately aimed at a better understanding of neural tissue functions. In this review, we focus on nanomaterials and specifically on carbon-based nanomaterials, such as carbon nanotubes (CNTs) and graphene. While these materials raise potential safety concerns, they represent a tremendous technological opportunity for the restoration of neuronal functions. We then describe nanotools such as nanowires and nano-modified MEA for high-performance electrophysiological recording and stimulation of neuronal electrical activity. We finally focus on the fabrication of three-dimensional synthetic nanostructures, used as substrates to interface biological cells and tissues in vitro and in vivo.
Keywords: nanomaterials; nanoscience; nanotools; neuroengineering; neuroscience.