Todd Pappas at the Universe of Texas and colleagues discovered that carbon nanotubes can transmit electrical signals to neurons and therefore serve as a replacement for damaged neurons in the eye, brain, and spinal cord:
The Texas researchers grew rat neurons on thick mats of carbon nanotubes seeded on flexible plastic sheets. Instead of treating the mats like a foreign surface, neurons take well to the nanotubes, says Todd Pappas, director of sensory and molecular neuroengineering at the University of Texas Medical Branch, who led the research. The nanotubes absorb an important neural protein and form a roughly textured carpet on which nerves grow readily. When Pappas and colleagues at Rice University sent an electrical charge across the sheet, the neurons responded with an electrical signal of their own, called an action potential, indicating that they got the message.