Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Nanoscale Biosensors in Your Eyes and Brain Could Collect Data on Your Health


A new graphene biosensor design, just four atoms thick, could overcome the limitations of its comparatively clunky predecessors and one day find itself in peoples’ brains, on their eyes, and anywhere else on the body where the body's electrical signals could usefully be, well, sensed.

Conductive biosensors that measure electrical activity in the brain allow neuroscientists to track what, exactly, is happening in that mysterious organ when we—okay, I—do things like decide to eat an entire pizza instead of hit the gym. But traditional sensors have a problem: they’re often metallic, rigid, and interrupt other methods of brain scanning like MRI, infrared, and ultraviolet scanning. 

According to a new Nature Communications paper by University of Wisconsin-Madison engineers, brain research techniques like optogenetics—genetically modifying neurons to be stimulated by light—require new kinds of transparent sensors that won’t block portions of the brain from being investigated. Next gen brain sensors also need to allow for other, more traditional imaging techniques. Because a sensor with these specific attributes doesn't exist yet, they made one.

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