|English: Quantum dot. Français : Nanocristal. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)|
|English: Complete neuron cell diagram. Neurons (also known as neurones and nerve cells) are electrically excitable cells in the nervous system that process and transmit information. In vertebrate animals, neurons are the core components of the brain, spinal cord and peripheral nerves. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)|
Neuroscientists in Seattle, Washington, have discovered a way to use quantum dots—light-sensitive, semiconducting particles just a few nanometers in diameter—to repair neurons which have been damaged by disease or age. When quantum dots were placed next to nerve cells and then stimulated by shining light on them, the ion channels of the nerve cells opened, allowng ions to rush in or out. This caused the nerve cells to fire. The development is an unlikely marriage between quantum physics and neuroscience.
What's the Big Idea?
To reactivate damaged neurons, quantum dots need to be placed in the brain and stimulated by light. Lih Lin, who directed the study, says attaching certain molecules to the quantum dots would allow them to be delivered to the brain intravenously. Getting light into the brain without invasive surgery, however, will be trickier. So for the moment, quantum dots would most likely be used to cure blindness associated with retinal damage since the eye is built to receive light in the first place. Future research will target Alzheimer's and epilepsy.
I think this is very interesting as it is part of the NBIC convergence: Nanotech, Biotech, Information Technology, and Cognition. I wonder if some of my therapy may one day be replaced with quantum dots.