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Nicholas A. Kotov, Jessica O. Winter, Isaac P. Clements, Edward Jan, Brian P. Timko, Stéphane Campidelli, Smita Pathak, Andrea Mazzatenta, Charles M. Lieber, Maurizio Prato, Ravi V. Bellamkonda, Gabriel A. Silva, Nadine Wong Shi Kam, Fernando Patolsky, Laura Ballerini

8 July 2009


This review focuses on the application of nanomaterials for neural interfacing. The junction between nanotechnology and neural tissues can be particularly worthy of scientific attention for several reasons: (i) Neural cells are electroactive, and the electronic properties of nanostructures can be tailored to match the charge transport requirements of electrical cellular interfacing. (ii) The unique mechanical and chemical properties of nanomaterials are critical for integration with neural tissue as long-term implants. (iii) Solutions to many critical problems in neural biology/medicine are limited by the availability of specialized materials. (iv) Neuronal stimulation is needed for a variety of common and severe health problems. This confluence of need, accumulated expertise, and potential impact on the well-being of people suggests the potential of nanomaterials to revolutionize the field of neural interfacing. In this review, we begin with foundational topics, such as the current status of neural electrode (NE) technology, the key challenges facing the practical utilization of NEs, and the potential advantages of nanostructures as components of chronic implants. After that the detailed account of toxicology and biocompatibility of nanomaterials in respect to neural tissues is given. Next, we cover a variety of specific applications of nanoengineered devices, including drug delivery, imaging, topographic patterning, electrode design, nanoscale transistors for high-resolution neural interfacing, and photoactivated interfaces. We also critically evaluate the specific properties of particular nanomaterials—including nanoparticles, nanowires, and carbon nanotubes—that can be taken advantage of in neuroprosthetic devices. The most promising future areas of research and practical device engineering are discussed as a conclusion to the review.

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