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J Neurosci. 2011 Sep 7;31(36):12945-53. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.1332-11.2011.

Carbon nanotube scaffolds tune synaptic strength in cultured neural circuits: novel frontiers in nanomaterial-tissue interactions.

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Life Science Department, B.R.A.I.N., University of Trieste, I-34127 Trieste, Italy.


A long-term goal of tissue engineering is to exploit the ability of supporting materials to govern cell-specific behaviors. Instructive scaffolds code such information by modulating (via their physical and chemical features) the interface between cells and materials at the nanoscale. In modern neuroscience, therapeutic regenerative strategies (i.e., brain repair after damage) aim to guide and enhance the intrinsic capacity of the brain to reorganize by promoting plasticity mechanisms in a controlled fashion. Direct and specific interactions between synthetic materials and biological cell membranes may play a central role in this process. Here, we investigate the role of the material's properties alone, in carbon nanotube scaffolds, in constructing the functional building blocks of neural circuits: the synapses. Using electrophysiological recordings and rat cultured neural networks, we describe the ability of a nanoscaled material to promote the formation of synaptic contacts and to modulate their plasticity.

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