Remote nongenetic optical modulation of neuronal activity using fuzzy graphene

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2020 Jun 16;117(24):13339-13349. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1919921117. Epub 2020 Jun 1.


The ability to modulate cellular electrophysiology is fundamental to the investigation of development, function, and disease. Currently, there is a need for remote, nongenetic, light-induced control of cellular activity in two-dimensional (2D) and three-dimensional (3D) platforms. Here, we report a breakthrough hybrid nanomaterial for remote, nongenetic, photothermal stimulation of 2D and 3D neural cellular systems. We combine one-dimensional (1D) nanowires (NWs) and 2D graphene flakes grown out-of-plane for highly controlled photothermal stimulation at subcellular precision without the need for genetic modification, with laser energies lower than a hundred nanojoules, one to two orders of magnitude lower than Au-, C-, and Si-based nanomaterials. Photothermal stimulation using NW-templated 3D fuzzy graphene (NT-3DFG) is flexible due to its broadband absorption and does not generate cellular stress. Therefore, it serves as a powerful toolset for studies of cell signaling within and between tissues and can enable therapeutic interventions.

Keywords: dorsal root ganglia neurons; graphene; nanowire; optical modulation; spheroids.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Electrochemical Techniques
  • Graphite / chemistry*
  • Lasers
  • Nanostructures / chemistry*
  • Nanowires / chemistry
  • Neurons / physiology
  • Neurons / radiation effects*
  • Photochemical Processes
  • Rats
  • Spheroids, Cellular / physiology
  • Spheroids, Cellular / radiation effects


  • Graphite