Edinburgh University researchers have developed a technique whereby they can grow neurons in a specific pattern determined by a silicon chip. This is yet another small advance in this area of research - the interface between biology and computers.
The researchers were able to etch a pattern in silicon and then bath that chip in a bath of specific proteins. The proteins - likely including some growth factors and other hormones - coaxed the neurons to grow along the pre-determined pathways.
This represents an incremental technological step, but an important one. There are several research programs working on aspects of this technology - getting cells, whether neurons or stem cells, to grow how they want them to. Others are working on the interface of neurons and computer chips - getting them to talk to each other.