Single-Crystal Gold Nanowire Probes Reach Subcellular Dimensions

The single-crystal gold nanowire probe is 50 times smaller and 1,000 times more sensitive than existing nerve probe needles.

AsianScientist (Sep. 16, 2014) – Scientists have developed the world’s thinnest nano-probe needle made of a single-crystal gold nanowire and successfully used it to measure nerve signals in a mouse brain. This research has been published in the journal ACS Nano.

The brain neural probe, which collects and analyzes electrical nerve signals generated in the brain, is the most essential element in brain research. A neural probe should minimize tissue damage, but still possess a good electrical sensitivity. 

The nano-probe needle developed by Professor Kim Bongsoo and his team from the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) is only 100 nm thick and is 1,000 times more sensitive than conventional nerve probe needles.

To make the nano-probe, the researchers first heated gold until it turned into a vapor. Then, the gold evaporation slug was transported to a colder board and left to form single-crystal gold nano structures by condensation. Because the new gold nanowire produced by using this method is a flawless single crystal structure, it is both strong and flexible.

Prof. Kim and his team used the nano-probe needle to study the brains of mice that had been given a drug to induce epilepsy. They were able to define the exact area in the brain that triggers epilepsy and also to detect neural signal changes in the brain of the mouse when it encountered the intrusion of a stranger mouse.

“The new nano-probe needle is able to detect signals from a single nerve cell with high sensitivity while keeping the nerve cells intact. The probe needle will be useful for creating a precise three-dimensional brain map, as well as providing electrical treatment for brain diseases such as dementia and Parkinson’s disease,” Prof. Kim said.

The article can be found at: Kang et al. (2014) Subcellular Neural Probes from Single-Crystal Gold Nanowires.

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Source: Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology.
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