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Vol. 4, No. 4, 2007
Issue release date: July 2007
Neurodegenerative Dis 2007;4:292–299

Applications of Carbon Nanotubes in Neurobiology

Malarkey E.B. · Parpura V.
Department of Cell Biology and Neuroscience, Centers for Glial-Neuronal Interactions and Nanoscale Science and Engineering, University of California, Riverside, Calif., USA

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Background: Carbon nanotubes are one of the most promising materials for the electronics, computer and aerospace industries. There are numerous properties of carbon nanotubes that make them attractive for applications in neurobiology: small size, flexibility, strength, inertness, electrical conductivity and ease of modification with biological compounds. Objective/Methods: Here, we discuss the current applications of carbon nanotubes in neuroscience. Results: Carbon nanotubes and their derivatives can be used as substrates/scaffolds for neural cell growth. The chemical properties of carbon nanotubes can be systematically varied by attaching different functional groups; manipulation of the charge carried by functionalized carbon nanotubes can be used to control the outgrowth and branching pattern of neuronal processes. The ease with which carbon nanotubes can be patterned makes them attractive for studying the organization of neural networks and the electrical conductivity of nanotubes can provide a mechanism to monitor or stimulate neurons through the substrate itself. However, it is important to recognize that carbon nanotubes themselves can affect neuronal function, most likely by interaction with ion channels. Conclusion: The use of carbon nanotubes in neurobiology is a promising application that has the potential to develop new methods and techniques to advance the study of neuroscience.

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