Bionic brains and bacterium-sized bunnies

By Alejandro Freixes, CCNN Head Writer

See that little bunny over to the left? Well, guess exactly how little it really is? It’s the size of a bacterium (single bacteria). To put that in perspective, in one milliliter of water – roughly 20 drops of water – there’s usually a million bacterial cells. Imagine fitting a million little rabbits into 20 drops of water! It’s crazy, huh?

Now, this isn’t just about scientists having some fun and laughing when no one’s looking. The fact that they can make these complex 3D structures at such a tiny level means that one day, they can create bionic implants. An implant is something that doctors put into the body, to either help it heal or change the way we look and something is bionic if it uses an understanding of biology – the study of life – to create machines.

electrodes for bionic brain
Electrodes stimulate the brain.

Now, if we can make implants as small as those little rabbits, then it could be used to treat brain disorders. If scientists wanted to use it in the brain, they’d need to make an electrode from it to channel electricity into your mind. By stimulating certain parts of the brain, a bionic electrode could treat disorders like epilepsy (which causes people to shake uncontrollably), blindness, dementia (a type of forgetfulness that makes it hard to be logical), paralysis, and even deafness.

In order to pull this off, though, we need the right material. The material used to make these rabbits is a special kind of resin – stuff usually taken from trees – that can handle the high temperatures of electricity. To test new resins, researchers try baking it to see if it gets bent out of shape. A Japanese team of physicists and chemists used a blend of ultraviolet light and laser beams to create this new resin that can take the heat without melting or being bent.

So, basically, the fact that this little bunny can safely be shocked with electricity is great news for the future of brain science and bionic implants!

Featured image courtesy of Yuya Daicho, Terumasa Murakami, Tsuneo Hagiwara, and electrode diagram courtesy of Shoji Maruo and Medi-Mation.