Whatever field scientists look to improve by applying graphene’s amazing principles to it, major breakthroughs soon follow. Lately the biomedical field has turned its attention to the wonder nanomaterial, and the promising results could revolutionize treatment for motor disorders, paralysis, and limb loss. It’s all about electrodes.

How can this two-dimensional form of carbon that’s thinner than a sheet of paper and stronger than diamond make such bold claims to improve the human brain? Researchers at the University of Trieste in Italy and the Cambridge Graphene Centre have demonstrated how graphene could be used to make electrodes that could safely implant in the brain to treat various medical conditions. These electrodes would interface with nerve cells without damaging the cells’ integrity. Part of graphene’s strength in medical applications is its amazing properties of conductivity, making it a natural winner for electrodes.

Successful implantation of graphene based electrodes in the brain could lead to new breakthroughs in restoring sensory function to amputee and paralysed patients, and could provide new hope for patients with chronic conditions such as Parkinson’s disease.

“For the first time we interfaced graphene to neurons directly,” said Professor Laura Ballerini of the University of Triest. “We then tested the ability of neurons to generate electrical signals known to represent brain activities, and found that the neurons retained their neuronal signalling properties unaltered. This is the first functional study of neuronal synaptic activity using uncoated graphene based materials.”

This is a huge breakthrough for electrodes, as they’ve previously been hampered by the limitations of other materials, such as tungsten or silicon. Typically these materials have been shown to lose conductivity over time, as scar tissue forms over the part of the brain where the electrode was surgically inserted. Graphene solves that problem by being highly biocompatible in research.

This is an exciting first step in revolutionizing deep brain implants. Check out the full research here, and for other exciting recent medical news on graphene, check out this post on how graphene will revolutionize the production of artificial limbs.