Nanoneuroscience: Nanotechnology for Neuroscience

Jitendra Suthar

The advancements in science and technology have made it possible for the neuroscientists to understand microscale function of single neurons as well as the macro scale activity of the human brain. However, a comprehensive understanding of the brain still remains an elusive goal.

In the past one decade, there has been a complete revolution in the design and synthesis of nanomaterials and nanoscale analytical tools. These advancements have generated optically, electrically, and chemically customized nanomaterials that can be readily adapted for their use in neuroscience. This aspect of revolution had led to the birth of the field known as Nanoneuroscience.

Nanoneuroscience is an emerging field that can greatly impact the understanding of neural circuitry and neurological treatment. It is a relationship emerging from the two different sciences to gain a better understanding of brain function. The integration of Nanotechnology with Bioengineering and Neuroscience can transform basic science into novel nanobiomaterials for the treatment and monitoring of the pathological condition of neurological disease. It provides a solution to many central nervous system disorders such as neurodevelopmental disorders, psychiatric disorders and motor and sensory disorders. This collaborative field utilizes broad concepts, such as drug delivery, cell protection, cell regeneration and differentiation, imaging and surgery, to deliver novel clinical methods in neuroscience. However, this collaboration between the two branches is still at the initial stages

The clinical translation of Nanoneuroscience implicates that central nervous system (CNS) diseases have the potential to be cured. Researches in past years suggest that different types of nanomaterials (organic/inorganic nanoparticles systems) have been used in the field of Nanoneuroscience, and their potential applications have been governed. Few of the important applications of this emerging field include nanomaterials for neuroprotection, nanomaterial-based approaches for neural regeneration, neuroimaging and neurosurgery.

However, interfering with the internal environment of cells, especially neurons, is by no means simple. The functional investigations of nanomaterials must be complemented with robust toxicology studies, if we have to make great strides in Nanoneuroscience. The challenges in Nanoneuroscience are present in many forms, such as neurotoxicity; the inability to cross the blood-brain barrier; the need for greater specificity, bioavailability and short half-lives; and monitoring the disease treatment. While the challenges associated with Nanoneuroscience seem unending, they represent an opportunities for the future work. Investment in terms of research in these areas will create ever more sophisticated, increasingly functional and safer platforms for the pursuit of both scientific and clinical endeavors. In parallel, continuing progress is needed in characterizing the fundamental molecular, physiological and pathological features of the nervous system. The greater our basic knowledge of neuronal networks, the stronger the foundation upon which nanotechnology can be successfully applied. Special attention is needed to develop safe and sustainable nanobiomaterials. Ultimately, if these fields are studied in tandem and measures are implemented to meet such challenges, it is only a matter of time before nanotechnology based interventions for nervous system disorders reach the clinic.