05 May 2014

Iron nerves

Scientists have fused severed nerves with liquid metal

DailyTechInfo based on Gizmodo Materials: Scientists Have Reconnected Severed Nerves with Liquid MetalThe creation of liquid metal robots like the T-1000 terminator is still far beyond the capabilities of modern science and technology, but the first steps in this direction have already been taken.

For the first time in the history of science, a group of Chinese biomedical scientists used a liquid metal alloy to fuse and restore the functionality of the severed nerve tissues of experimental animals. In fact, scientists made the first electronic circuits based on nerve tissues, and this method worked one hundred percent.

The method, which seems to be something from the category of science fiction, is actually quite simple. Scientists from Tsinghua University (Tsinghua University) have been searching for methods to restore the functioning of muscles whose nerve tissues have been destroyed as a result of injuries or diseases. Scientists have found that the best way to achieve this goal is to use a metal that retains high electrical conductivity in a liquid state.

The most neutral for the human body of all known types of liquid metals is an alloy of selenium-indium-gallium, a soft material that becomes liquid already at human body temperature. In addition, the alloy has a high electrical conductivity.

To test the performance of the alloy as a "glue" for nerve tissues, scientists inserted an electrode into the end of the sciatic nerve of an experimental frog and applied an electric pulse to it, which caused the muscles of the limb to contract. Then the sciatic nerve was cut and the resulting two ends were connected using a liquid metal alloy enclosed in a special shell. The electrical conductivity of the liquid metal allowed nerve impulses to pass through the damaged nerve and the frog's limb regained the ability to move.

The fusion method developed by Chinese scientists using liquid metal can already be considered as the first stage in the development of technologies for the treatment of diseases associated with injuries and other damage to nerve tissues. In addition, the place of contact of liquid metal with a nerve is the simplest implementation of an electron-nerve interface, which can first be used to create robotic prostheses and implants, and further work in this direction can become the basis for the creation of organisms of the first cyborgs, whose bodies will combine mechanical, electronic parts and parts of biological origin.

(Article by Jie Zhang et al. Liquid Metal as Connecting or Functional Recovery Channel for the Transected Sciatic Nerve is published on the arXiv –VM website.)

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