New quantum material could warn of neurological disease.



New quantum material could warn of neurological disease.

The black rectangle below these golden rungs is a new quantum material capable of "listening" to the brain by capturing atoms, which the brain naturally uses to communicate. Credit: image of Purdue University / Hai-Tian Zhang

What if the brain could detect its own disease? Researchers have been trying to create a material that "thinks" as the brain does, which would be more sensitive to the early signs of neurological diseases such as Parkinson's.

The thinking is far away, but researchers at Purdue University and the Argonne National Laboratory have designed a new material that can at least "listen".

The lingua franca is an ionic current, which helps the brain to perform a particular reaction, necessary for something as basic as sending a signal to breathe. Detecting ions also means detecting the concentration of a molecule, which serves as an indicator of brain health.

In a study published in Communications of nature, researchers demonstrate the ability of a quantum material to receive hydrogen automatically when it is placed beneath the brain portion of an animal model. Quantum means that the material has electronic properties that both can not be explained by clbadical physics and that give it a unique advantage over other materials used in electronics, such as silicon.

The edge, in this case, is strong, the "correlated" electrons that make the material more sensitive and more tunable.

"The goal is to close the gap between how electronic components think, which is through electrons, and how the brain thinks, which is through the ions.This material helped us find a potential bridge," Hai said. Tian Zhang, Gilbreth postdoctoral fellow. Purdue Engineering College and first author of the article.

In the long run, this material could even bring the ability to "unload" your brain, say researchers.

"Imagine putting an electronic device in the brain, so that when the natural functions of the brain begin to deteriorate, a person can still recover the memories of that device," said Shriram Ramanathan, professor of materials engineering at Purdue, whose laboratory specializes in developing technology inspired by the brain.

"We can say with confidence that this material is a potential way to build a computing device that stores and transfers memories," he said.

The researchers tested this material with two molecules: glucose, a sugar essential for the production of energy, and dopamine, a chemical messenger that regulates movement, emotional responses and memory.

Because the amounts of dopamine are typically low in the brain, and even lower for people with Parkinson's disease, detection of this chemical has been notoriously difficult. But detecting dopamine levels early would mean faster treatment of the disease.

"This quantum material is approximately nine times more sensitive to dopamine than the methods we currently use in animal models," said Alexander Chubykin, an badistant professor of biological sciences at the Purdue Institute for Integrative Neuroscience, based in Discovery Park.

The quantum material owes its sensitivity to the strong interactions between the so-called "correlated electrons". The researchers discovered for the first time that when they put the material in contact with the glucose molecules, the oxides spontaneously extracted hydrogen from the glucose through an enzyme. The same happened with the dopamine released from a portion of the mouse brain.

The strong affinity with hydrogen, as shown when researchers at the Argonne National Laboratory created simulations of the experiments, allowed the material to extract atoms on its own, without a source of energy.

"The fact that we have not supplied the material with energy to ingest hydrogen means that it could bring very low power electronics with a high sensitivity," Ramanathan said. "This could also be useful for probing unexplored environments."

The researchers also say that this material could detect atoms from a range of molecules, beyond glucose and dopamine. The next step is to create a way for the material to "answer" the brain.


The quantum material is an ion conductor & # 39; promising for research, new technologies


More information:
Hai-Tian Zhang et al, perovskite nickelates as bioelectronic interfaces, Communications of nature (2019). DOI: 10.1038 / s41467-019-09660-6

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Purdue University


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New quantum material could warn about neurological diseases (2019, April 10)
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