Discovering the  “Other Brain” through Astrocytes and Graphene
Discovering the “Other Brain” through Astrocytes and Graphene

Discovering the “Other Brain” through Astrocytes and Graphene

Cnr-Isof, with the participation of the Institute for the Study of Nanostructured Materials (Cnr-Ismn), the Departments of Fabit at the University of Bologna (Unibo) and the Institute of Experimental Medicine of the Czech Academy of Science in Prague (Czech Republic), has coordinated a recent study, published in Nature Nanotechnology, demonstrating that astrocyte signals can be selectively controlled by leveraging the diverse properties of graphene-based materials.

Astrocytes are star-shaped brain cells that, along with neurons, perform essential functions within the brain, modulating synapses and participating in mechanisms involving memory, learning and behavior. These star-shaped cells, also known as the “other brain,” are present in large numbers in the human brain. They communicate with each other, with neurons, and with blood vessels through a communication code based on calcium ions. However, some of their functions are still unknow.

We combine different properties of graphene and graphene oxide to selectively stimulate and excite astrocytes by an electric field and providing different responses, depending on the type of electrodes used to stimulate them. This occurs through the activation of different calcium ‘codes. The results represent new perspectives in the generation of technologies capable of dialoguing with astrocytes for the study of specific dysfunctions, such as those related to calcium signals in astrocytes, which are involved in conditions like stroke and epilepsy.

The work was supported by the European project Astrotech, Prin-Pnrr Nanodyn, and the US-Afosr research projects Astrolight and Astrotalk (coordinated by Valentina Benfenati), and by the Graphene Flagship project (led by Vincenzo Palermo). The activities are part of the strategy of the working group on Advanced Materials, Nanomaterials, and Biophysics of the Italy-USA Joint Commission on Science and Technology, led by Luigi Ambrosio (CNR) and Sofi Bin-Salamon (AFOSR).

Here the link of the research:

Astrocytes and Graphene to communicate with the “other Brain”, Nat. Nanotech. July 2024.