Scientists Create First Ever Artificial Neurons to Cure Chronic Diseases

The team recreated the electrical properties of biological neurons onto microchips.
Fabienne Lang
One of the chipsUniversity of Bath

Many people around the world suffer from chronic diseases such as heart failure and Alzheimer's, among other neurodegenerative diseases. Now, for the first time ever, a team of scientists has developed artificial neurons on silicon chips that work just like the real deal.

This discovery could impact the world of medical devices that help cure chronic illnesses in a massive way.

Their findings were published on Tuesday in Nature Communications.


Artificial neurons on chips

The team was led by researchers at the University of Bath in England, alongside scientists from the University of Zurich, the University of Bristol, and the University of Auckland.

What the team discovered was that these artificial neurons behave much in the same way as biological neurons. Moreover, they only require one billionth of the power of a microprocessor. This makes them extremely well-suited for medical implants and bio-electronic devices. 

This research has been a big goal to achieve in the medical world as it would cure chronic diseases where neurons no longer function properly. For instance, after people have suffered a spinal cord injury where the neurons' processes have been severed. 

These artificial neurons could repair broken bio-circuits by imitating their usually-healthy functions and helping the body to respond as it would if it were healthy. 

Lead researcher of the project, Professor Alain Nogaret of the University of Bath, said "Until now neurons have been like black boxes, but we have managed to open the black box and peer inside. Our work is paradigm-changing because it provides a robust method to reproduce the electrical properties of real neurons in minute detail."

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Nogaret continued "Our approach combines several breakthroughs. We can very accurately estimate the precise parameters that control any neurons' behavior with high certainty. We have created physical models of the hardware and demonstrated its ability to successfully mimic the behavior of real living neurons. Our third breakthrough is the versatility of our model which allows for the inclusion of different types and functions of a range of complex mammalian neurons."

Adding to these comments, co-author of the study and professor at the University of Zurich, Giacomo Indiveri, said: "This work opens new horizons for neuromorphic chip design thanks to its unique approach to identifying crucial analog circuit parameters."

It's quite the development in the world of medical devices and advancements.

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