Giving A Jolt To A Single Nerve Cell

ARTIFICIAL LIMBS THAT respond just as natural ones do are still the stuff of science fiction, but scientists at the Max-Planck Institute of Biochemistry in Munich have moved one step closer to the integration of electronics and biology. To avoid damage caused by directly stimulating nerve cells with electric current, Peter Fromherz and his colleagues have developed a silicon device that uses a simple rearrangement of electric charge to make a single nerve cell fire. The cell is placed against a tiny "stimulation spot" on the device. When a small voltage pulse is applied to the device, the stimulation spot induces a positive charge in the nerve cell, causing it to fire.

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