How to weld neurons with a laser
University of Alberta researchers have developed a method of connecting neurons using ultrashort laser pulses. The technique gives researchers complete control over the cell connection process and could lead to new research and treatment methods, including physical reattachment of severed neurons right after injury, the researchers say.
After putting two neurons in a special solution that prevents them from sticking together, the researchers brought them into contact with each other and delivered femtosecond (10-15 seconds) laser pulses to the meeting point of the two cells, causing them to establish solid bonds and form a common membrane at the targeted area.
The cells remained viable and the connection strong. It took the neurons just 15 milliseconds to stick to each other; the process would have taken hours to occur naturally.
“The preservation of the viability of the neural network will allow researchers to study new complex pathophysiological processes, such as neurogenesis, Wallerian degeneration, segmental demyelination, and axonal degeneration,” the authors note.