Researchers at Montana State University (MSU) are gently stretching small branches of individual rat neurons with magnets to gain insights on brain function and deterioration in the pursuit of new treatments and cures for Alzheimer's disease and other degenerative brain disorders.
MSU professor Anja Kunze notes a deteriorating neuron "doesn't exert a force on its neighbors anymore," potentially causing neighboring neurons to degenerate. The experimental neurons are infused with nanoscale iron particles so the magnets can exert an influence and stretch the cells, with the magnetic forces modeled and the device's design refined by a computer program. Kunze imagines patients with degenerative brain conditions potentially ingesting these magnetic nanoparticles and then having a magnetic resonance imaging scanner or similar device massage their brain cells and stimulate new connections.
"This research, understanding how the brain works using electrical engineering principles, is a new area for our department, and that's exciting," says MSU's Todd Kaiser.
From Montana State University
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