New knowledge in health informatics research regarding neural implants has recently been documented. According to a recent study led by Lauren Bain, lead author of a paper describing the work and a Ph.D. student in the joint biomedical engineering program at NC State and UNC-Chapel Hill, the research was initiated because of their desire to know if a material’s texture and structure would have significant effects on cell adhesion and differentiation.
The health informatics study was carried out by using what seemed to be the most promising semiconductor suited for biomedical applications to date, gallium nitride (GaN). PC12cells were also used in the study. These cells are model cells which are used in the laboratory to simulate the behavior of neurons.
Health informatics researcher Dr. Bain stated that what they want to achieve is to gain knowledge as to the effect of changing the physical attributes of the semiconductor, its surface more specifically. They would like to establish the characteristic of a surface favorable to the integration of an implant into neural tissue.
The team grew PC12 cells on GaN squares with different surface characteristics. Four surfaces which had different properties were used: 1) parallel grooves, 2) smooth, 3) covered with nanowires and 4) random and irregular textures resembling a mountain range.
It was found that few cells grew on the smooth surfaced GaN squares, while the surface with the most growth is the GaN squares with the nanoscale surface. Not only does the amount of growth varied from one type of surface to the other, but the shape of the adhered PC12 cells were also noted to vary with each type of surface.
Bain points out the significance of these findings. She stated that the influence of the surface on the shape and growth of the cells is evident of a non-chemical interaction between the material and the body. This recent progress in health informatics research and healthcare engineering may have future impacts on the development of neural implants.