Now Reading
Swedish Scientists Build Artificial Neurons Able to Communicate With Organic Neurons

Swedish Scientists Build Artificial Neurons Able to Communicate With Organic Neurons

by Giulio PriscoJune 26, 2015

Scientists at Karolinska Institutet in Sweden have built a fully functional neuron by using organic bioelectronics. This artificial neuron contain no “living” parts, but is capable of mimicking the function of a human nerve cell and communicate in the same way as our own neurons do.

Neurons communicate with chemical signals called neurotransmitters. Incoming chemical signals are converted to electrical signals that travel along the neuron and eventually converted back to chemical signals and sent to other neurons. To date, the main medical technique used for neuronal stimulation is based on electrical stimulation. However, the new bioelectronic device developed by the Karolinska researchers is capable of receiving chemical signals, which it can then relay to organic neurons.

The Fundamental Chemical-to-Electrical-to-Chemical Signal Transduction Function of Organic Neurons is Achieved by the Artificial Neuron

Our artificial neuron is made of conductive polymers and it functions like a human neuron,

artificial neuronsays lead investigator Agneta Richter-Dahlfors, professor of cellular microbiology. “The sensing component of the artificial neuron senses a change in chemical signals in one dish, and translates this into an electrical signal. This electrical signal is next translated into the release of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine in a second dish, whose effect on living human cells can be monitored.”

Richter-Dahlfors and her team, in collaboration with collegues at Linköping University, have published the results of their research in an article titled “An organic electronic biomimetic neuron enables auto-regulated neuromodulation” on Biosensors and Bioelectronics.

The fundamental function of neurons, defined as chemical-to-electrical-to-chemical signal transduction, is achieved by connecting enzyme-based amperometric biosensors and organic electronic ion pumps. According to the research paper, the results demonstrate the potential of the organic electronic biomimetic neuron in therapies involving long-range neuronal signalling by mimicking the function of projection neurons.


The intended applications of the research include complementing or replacing traditional electrical stimulation with neuron-like chemical signals in treatments for neurologial disorders. The prototype organic electronic biomimetic neuron would have the capacity to precisely intervene with the underlying malfunctioning signalling pathway.In the future, this may help physicians to bypass damaged nerve cells and restore neural function.

“Next, we would like to miniaturize this device to enable implantation into the human body,” says Agneta Richer-Dahlfors.

We foresee that in the future, by adding the concept of wireless communication, the biosensor could be placed in one part of the body, and trigger release of neurotransmitters at distant locations. Using such auto-regulated sensing and delivery, or possibly a remote control, new and exciting opportunities for future research and treatment of neurological disorders can be envisaged.

Currently the prototype device, shown in the video, is fingertip-sized. It’s interesting to speculate on the possibility that this or a similar devices could eventually be subject to extreme miniaturization much beyond the relatively sober plans envisaged by Richer-Dahlfors. Banks of cell-sized artificial neurons that work like organic neurons, and can communicate with organic neurons, could then be added to the brain as co-processors and memory storage devices, which would be an important step toward working brain implants.

Images from Shutterstok and Karolinska Institutet.

Advertised sites are not endorsed by us. They may be unsafe, untrustworthy, or illegal in your jurisdiction.
What's your reaction?
Love it
Hate it
  • Don Reba

    With that wireless technology ambition, couldn’t you place triggers in one body, and release in another? That could be… interesting.

    • DoRightThing

      It would open up the possibility of having an organism with physically disconnected parts, or provide inter-organism communication…
      A Borg-like collective may arise as an evolutionary waypoint in the future.
      However, with human nature being what it is, a neural internet may not be much fun after all.
      It is still too early to say if intelligence confers an evolutionary advantage!

    • Giulio Prisco

      Most definitely interesting! (Think of applications to sex 🙂 Wireless receptors should be placed in the target body though.

  • Brad Arnold

    Synthetic neocortex extender.

  • Private_Eyescream

    Except… human brains use sodium and potassium ions for neural communications with electricity being only a shortcut for speed. This artificial neuron creates no potassium or sodium ions and just uses electrons. Now to explain the problem a bit more.

    Brain sends a coded signal. Potassium and sodium ions are released from neuro-transmitters.

    Artificial neuron sends a coded electrical signal. No potassium or sodium ions are released or absorbed. This is what, in biochemistry, would be called a “non-free ride”, which the human body despises. Because no potassium or sodium is released, the body has to reuse these ions at a mitochondrial cost, burning ATP and chewing through the chemical energy Krebs Cycle paths like a parasite, killing the nerve cells by using up electrical energy while not replacing any chemical source energy molecules. Research EXCITO-TOXINS for more information.

    And since no new ions are put in play, the chemical signal at the neural ends are static, unchanged, but the electrical signals run on, artificially generated by the Artificial Neuron. How do nerves signal at the end of the dendrites? By ionic chemical reactions with sodium and potassium ion receptors, but since none of that chemistry is in play with the fake nerve cell, the result is chemical confusion and the errant release or uptake of neural signalling ions. And what happens when the Artificial Neuron is NOT SIGNALLING (not killing nerve cells)? Well, the answer is simple, the neurotransmitter ions are left RANDOMIZED. Completely RANDOMIZED.

    Excitotoxins are a class of chemicals (usually amino acids) that overstimulate neuron receptors. Neuron receptors allow brain cells to communicate with each other, but when they’re exposed to excitotoxins, they fire impulses at such a rapid rate that they become exhausted, then die.