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Like submicroscopic spacecrafts: graphene flakes to control neuron activity

A new piece of research by Laura Ballerini's group in Nano Letters

Like in a science fiction novel, miniscule spacecrafts able to reach a specific site of the brain and influence the operation of specific types of neurons or drug delivery: graphene flakes, the subject matter of the new study of the group of SISSA professor Laura Ballerini, open up truly futuristic horizons. With the researcher, Rossana Rauti, Ballerini is responsible for the study recently published in the journal “Nano Letters”. Measuring just one millionth of a metre, these particles have proven able to interfere with the transmission of the signal at excitatory neuronal synaptic junctions. Furthermore, the study has shown that they do so in a reversible manner because they disappear without leaving a trace a few days after they have been administered.

Basic research, which, thanks to this positive evidence, could initiate further studies, geared to investigating the possible therapeutic effects for the treatment of problems, such as epilepsy, in which an excess of the activity of the excitatory neurons is recorded or to study innovative ways to transport therapeutic substances in situ. The research, carried out in association with the universities of Trieste, Manchester and Strasbourg, is conducted within the Graphene Flagship, the substantial funding project of the European Union, which aims to investigate the potential of graphene in the most diverse areas of application, from the biomedical to the industrial ones.