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Graphene-Based Brain-Computer Interfaces

28 January 2019
Giulio Prisco

Brain Computer Interface

The Graphene Flagship project of the European Commission is announcing the development of a graphene-based implant that can record electrical activity in the brain at extremely low frequencies and over large areas, unlocking the wealth of information found below 0.1 Hz. A study published in Nature Materials describes the potential of this technology to enhance our understanding of the brain and pave the way for the next generation of brain-computer interfaces.

The implant, based on graphene micro-transistors, amplifies the brain's signals in situ before transmitting them to a receiver, and can support many more recording sites than a standard electrode array, without being rejected or interfering with normal brain function, and map the low frequency brain activity known to carry crucial information about different events, such as the onset and progression of epileptic seizures and strokes.

"Beyond epilepsy, this precise mapping and interaction with the brain has other exciting applications," explains researcher José Antonio Garrido. "[Our] active graphene-based transistor technology will boost the implementation of novel multiplexing strategies that can increase dramatically the number of recording sites in the brain, leading the development of a new generation of brain-computer interfaces."

Molecule disrupts the biological clock of cancer cells. Scientists at University of Southern California and Nagoya University have found and tested a promising drug that stops cancer by interfering with the cancer cells' metabolism and other circadian-related functions. The research work, conducted on human kidney cancer cells and on acute myeloid leukemia in mice, was published in Science Advances. A molecule named GO289 can jam the cogs of the cell's circadian clock, slowing its cycles. And it can do so with little impact to healthy cells.

White blood cells related to allergies and asthma can be used to fight cancer. Researchers at Tel Aviv University have found that eosinophils, white blood cells that are responsible for chronic asthma and modern allergies, may be used to eliminate malignant colon cancer cells. The research work, published in Cancer Immunology Research, shows that the higher the number of eosinophils in a tumor, the less severe the disease, which represents a clear correlation. According to the scientists, the fact that eosinophils represent a distinct weapon in fighting tumor cells opens new avenues for treatment of cancer.

Less cleanliness for better health? Scientists at German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) have found that current hygiene measures against aggressive germs could sometimes be counterproductive. A study published in Nature Ecology & Evolution suggests that disinfectants and antibiotics interfere in microbial species compositions, which could impede the natural containment of pathogens.

Rewired macrophages can eat cancer cells. Researchers at University of Pennsylvania have found ways to fuel macrophages with the energy needed to attack and eat cancer cells. Macrophages are immune cells able to eat cells that are not supposed to be in the body, but cancer has found ways to put them to sleep. A research paper published in Nature Immunology describes how rewiring macrophage metabolism can act like an alarm clock to rouse and prepare macrophages to go to work.

Protein-coated nanoparticles target cancer cells. Scientists affiliated with Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology (UNIST) have developed a targeted drug delivery system for cancer. A study published in Nature Communications describes how the researchers used recombinant DNA technology to create recombinant fusion proteins with enhanced physical stability and cancer-selective targeting ability, and used the proteins as a shield to encapsulate the surface of nanoparticle drug carriers.

Chaotic dynamics in the body boosts the immune system. Researchers at University of Copenhagen have found that chaotic dynamics in bodily regulation can optimize our immune system. A research paper published in Nature Communications suggests that chaotic swings in the concentration of the protein NF-kB - what in mathematics is known as chaotic dynamics - can increase the activation of a number of genes that are otherwise not activated.

FDA-approved blood pressure drug slows down cancer growth. Scientists at University of Pennsylvania have identified an FDA-approved drug that, when used with surgery, hampers metastasis in an animal model. The drug, Reserpine, was originally developed and approved nearly 65 years ago to control blood pressure. A study published in Cancer Cell shows that Resperine also prevents what are known as tumor-derived extracellular vesicles (TEVs) from fusing to healthy cells and sharing their cargo of disease-promoting molecules.

Herpes viruses and tumors exploit ancient DNA. Mount Sinai researchers have shown that herpes viral infections use the ancient genetic material found in the human genome to proliferate, mimicking the same process tumors have been found to manipulate. The research work, published in Nature Communications, describes how herpes viruses can manipulate the immune system in ways that may drive neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer's.

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