Swedish Scientists at the Nanoscience Centre at Karolinska Institutet’s Department of Neuroscience in collaboration with collegues at Linköping University, have created an organic bioelectronic device that is capable of receiving chemical signals, allowing it to communicate in the same way as our own neurons do.
“Our artificial neuron is made of conductive polymers and it functions like a human neuron”, says lead investigator Agneta Richter-Dahlfors, professor of cellular microbiology. “The sensing component of the artificial neuron senses a change in chemical signals in one dish, and translates this into an electrical signal. This electrical signal is next translated into the release of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine in a second dish, whose effect on living human cells can be monitored.“ Agneta Richter Dahlfors
The scientists have managed to build this “neuron” by using organic bioelectronics. It contains no ‘living’ parts, and it can mimic cell communication in the same way as human neurons do.
“Next, we would like to miniaturize this device to enable implantation into the human body”, says Agneta Richer-Dahlfors. “We foresee that in the future, by adding the concept of wireless communication, the biosensor could be placed in one part of the body, and trigger release of neurotransmitters at distant locations. Using such auto-regulated sensing and delivery, or possibly a remote control, new and exciting opportunities for future research and treatment of neurological disorders can be envisaged.”
“Yes, the researchers managed to mimick a very basic function of neurons, namely translating chemical signal input by a neurotransmitter into an electrical signal and trigger the release of neurotransmitter molecules on the other end.
But neurons do way, way more than that:
*They integrate signals from many different excitatory and inhibitory synapses (Edit: Basically this means summing up positive and negative inputs). I can see this being realized by electric circuitry in a model similar to the one described here, but as I understand it, they didn’t do that.
*Neurons generate new synapses, kill off existing ones, and strengthen or weaken existing synapses. These processes are called synaptic plasticity and are the fundamentals of brain function. The “artificial neuron” does none of that.
*Neurotransmitter release is highy regulated by extremely complex mechanisms. It’s not simply “put in electricity, dump neurotransmitter into synaptic cleft”. The amount of released molecules and the timing of release is utterly important. Not present in the “artifcial neuron”.
*Elimination of neurotransmitter molecules from the synaptic cleft can happen in different ways, one of them being re-uptake by the releasing neuron. I don’t see this happening in the model, either.
Is this interesting and promising research? Most definitely. Is it an “artificial neuron”? Absolutely not. It’s like saying you build a CPU when all you did was invent the extension cord.” ~[HereForTheFish](http://www.reddit.com/user/HereForTheFish)[SOURCE](http://ki.se/en/artifical-neuron-mimicks-function-of-human-cells)