Welcome to our first online NEUREKA consortium principal investigators (PI) interviews! This will be the first interview of several to come, where we ask each of the main partners from the NEUREKA consortium to tell us a little bit about their expertise and contribution towards this multi-national, multi-institutional project.
What is NEUREKA?
NEUREKA is an innovative hybrid technology, where nanoelectrodes & sophisticated computational models of neuronal circuits are combined, to obtain readout and manipulate activity & connectivity in cultured neuronal networks modelling Alzheimer’s disease.
In this video, Dr. Praveena Manogaran, Senior Scientist at MaxWell Biosystems interviews Prof. Dr. Stefano Vassanelli, PI and group leader of the NeuroChip Lab as well as Associate Professor of Physiology at the University of Padova (UNIPD) in Italy.
Interview – Prof. Dr. Stefano Vassanelli
- Details on your own background and expertise.
“I am a medical doctor and neurophysiologist by training with a strong bias towards neuro-technologies. In particular, I am involved in the development of brain interfaces and systems based on microelectrode arrays for recording neurons.”
- What is the main role of your lab in the NEUREKA project?
“For the NEUREKA project my lab is mainly involved in the validation of the technologies. Basically, taking neurons, culturing them on the nanoelectrodes, and then checking whether it is possible to record and particularly stimulate the neurons through the nanoelectrodes. It is mainly a validation role but also, I am involved in the investigation of the biophysics of the interface between nanoelectrodes and neurons.”
- What are the main contributions of the NEUREKA project that will advance your specific field of research?
“The NEUREKA project is really important with respect to the stimulation of neurons in culture. In particular, to understand whether 3D nanoelectrodes can stimulate neurons and particularly, whether we can stimulate branches of neurons specifically dendrites. For my specific research field, I think this is the main and very important advancement that the NEUREKA project promises. Moreover, related to my specific field, it will be very important to see whether an artificial neuronal network can simulate Alzheimer’s and can drive the activity of the neurons in culture through nano-stimulation of dendrites. This will set the basis for future drug discovery lab-on-chip technologies.”
- How many researchers are involved in your group and what is their expertise?
“The researchers involved in the project have interdisciplinary expertise. The biologists are mainly involved in the cell culturing, the physicists are mainly involved in the modelling and measurements of the interface between the nanoelectrodes, and the cells, and engineers are involved in data processing and signal processing.”
- NEUREKA is an interdisciplinary project across Europe, can you elaborate on the impact of the project partners on your research?
“I think the NEUREKA project would be impossible without collaboration among partners with different expertise. It is clearly a collaborative project. More specifically, in my case, I find it is extremely important and necessary for the collaboration regarding the arrays or the nanoelectrodes. They have the right expertise in microelectronics and nanoelectronics. Plus, there are the physicists who are experts in materials, who are also involved in the modeling of the nanoelectrodes and doing the experimental measurements for the characterization of the nanoelectrodes. Finally, of course, the people working with the Alzheimer’s model, that is, the artificial network simulating Alzheimer’s. If I can add to that, the company MaxWell Biosystems, of course, is leading us to towards the right goals, thinking about commercialization.”
- General remarks and project outlook.
“I would like to give an outlook concerning the NEUREKA project. In the NEUREKA project, in the context of a set of projects, in Europe, artificial intelligence or artificial neural networks are hybridized into newer neuro-technologies. We see at the level of neuronal networks, in terms of neurons in culture, how we can make them interact with artificial neuronal networks and artificial intelligence. I think this is a nice new way of research that involves different disciplines at different scales, this can be done in culture or in-vivo with the brain. I strongly believe that this will lead to stronger advancements both in neuroscience and in artificial intelligence. The two disciplines can learn from each other.”
“I find the NEUREKA project extremely exciting, and I love to work on this project. I got the opportunity to meet new coworkers who with I am working really really well. Also, I have to say, not only because you [Praveena Manogaran] are interviewing me, but MaxWell Biosystems is really supportive, and I find the company very collaborative and supportive for our research as well.”
Thank you Prof. Dr. Stefano Vassanelli for taking the time to tell us a little bit more about your background and expertise. We are very much looking forward to hearing more updates on your contributions to the NEUREKA project!
Stay tuned for our upcoming NEUREKA PI interview with Prof. Dr. Guilhem Larrieu, which will come out in Autumn 2022. Visit neureka.gr for more details and updates on the NEUREKA project.