Technology 3 min read

Artificial Neurons on Silicon Chips Could Cure Chronic Diseases

Andrii Vodolazhskyi / Shutterstock.com

Andrii Vodolazhskyi / Shutterstock.com

Scientists successfully modeled artificial neurons on silicon chips, mimicking real, living neurons responding to a range of stimulations.

In a first-of-its-kind achievement, scientists have invented artificial neurons on silicon chips. And yes, they work like the real thing.

One of the primary goals in medicine is to design artificial neurons that function as the natural ones. That means it should be able to respond to signals from the nervous system and serve as a possible cure to conditions where the neurons are not working correctly.

Health professionals can use artificial neurons to repair diseased bio-circuit. Not only could the synthetic neurons replicate their healthy function, but they could also respond adequately to biofeedbacks to restore bodily function too.

For example, during heart failure, neurons in the brain don’t respond well to nervous system feedback. As a result, the nervous system doesn’t send the right signals to the heart, which in turn doesn’t pump as hard as it should.

Artificial neurons could change all that. Along with preventing heart failure, it could cure other neuronal degeneration diseases such as Alzheimer’s.

So, how do these synthetic neurons work?

Developing Artificial Neurons That Work Like the Real Thing

Developing artificial neurons has been a challenging endeavor in the past. Aside from the complex biology involved, neuronal responses can be hard to predict.

However, the researchers were able to model and derive equations that explained how neurons respond to electrical stimuli from other nerves. Using the information, they designed silicon chips that modeled biological ion channels.

To prove that the silicon neurons respond to stimulations, the researchers replicated the entire dynamics of hippocampal neurons and respiratory neurons from rats.

In a statement, University of Bath professor, who led the study, Alain Nogaret 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.”

A paper detailing the team’s work has been published in the journal Nature Communications.

Potential Applications of Silicon Neurons

The synthetic neurons only need 14o nanoWatts of power to function – one-billionth the power of a microprocessor. That makes it suitable as a bioelectronic implant to treat chronic diseases.

For example, the researchers are applying the silicon neurons in smart pacemakers. Aside from stimulating steady pumping, the artificial neurons will enable the heart to respond to changes in real-time.

Read More: Researchers Devised a Way to Keep Artificial Retinas Cool

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Sumbo Bello

Sumbo Bello is a creative writer who enjoys creating data-driven content for news sites. In his spare time, he plays basketball and listens to Coldplay.

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