Neuroengineering

Using the “precision technique”
To unravel the working principle of the brain

The human brain is attracting attention from various fields, now the hottest research subject. Neuroengineering is a research area aiming to elucidate the phenomena of the cranial nervous system using engineering technology. The Jimbo laboratory who works early on this field and also conducts experiments using cells and iPS cells removed from mice and rats is a laboratory that is pursuing research that is deeply involved with living things, among other engineering systems.

If the behavior of the brain is elucidated, various applications are possible in fields such as electronics and medical care. For example, using the brain to control electronics directly, realizing a computer of a new architecture based on the information processing method of the brain, and curing diseases that are difficult to treat. If it is put into practical use, one door to the future will be opened.

Use fine structures made with semiconductor technology

Illustration
Measurement results of fine three-dimensional structures and electric signals:
The cells on the compartment grow and eventually connect through the tunnel. We will elucidate the principle of operation of the brain and living organism by measuring electrical signals that go between cells.
Professor Jimbo is trying to elucidate the principle of operation of the brain by making use of “precision techniques”. Specifically, we use two technologies. One is a technique for creating a fine three-dimensional structure using photolithography and soft lithography used in semiconductor manufacturing process. The other is a technology to simultaneously measure electric signals propagating the cranial nervous system in multiple channels.

How do you use these two technologies? In the three-dimensional structure, a plurality of sections on which cells are placed are formed, and a tunnel is formed between them. The cells on the compartment grow and eventually connect through the tunnel. Then, information exchange starts between the cells. By using this multi-channel measurement technique as an electric signal to detect this information, we will use it to clarify the behavior of the brain and living body.

Currently working with these technologies is an experiment to investigate the cause of the occurrence of atrial fibrillation in the heart. Atrial fibrillation is a type of arrhythmia. It is said that stress is involved in its onset. In other words, it affects the mental and physical control of autonomic nervous system by causing some trouble.

Facial picture Reproduce the control by autonomic nervous system on three-dimensional structure. Cardiomyocytes and sympathetic nerve cells obtained from the heart of the mouse are placed in separate compartments to bind them. Then, an electrical stimulus equivalent to stress is given to the sympathetic nerve cell and the behavior of the cardiomyocyte is observed. In the experiment, it was confirmed that the number of pulsations increased about twice immediately after giving a stimulus.
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