Abstract: Carbon nanotubes (CNTs) are cylindrically shaped nanostructures made by sheets of
graphene rolled up to form hollow tubes. Owing to their unique range of thermal, electronic, and
structural properties, CNTs have been rapidly developing as a technology platform for biological and
medical applications, including those designed to develop novel neuro-implantable devices. Depending
on their structure, CNTs combine an incredible strength with an extreme flexibility. Further, these
materials exhibit physical and chemical properties which allow them to efficiently conduit electrical
current in electrochemical interfaces. CNTs can be organized in scaffolds made up of small fibers or
tubes with diameters similar to those of neural processes such as axons and dendrites. Recently, CNT
scaffolds have been found to promote growth, differentiation, and survival of neurons and to modify
their electrophysiological properties. These features make CNTs an attractive material for the design
of nano–bio hybrid systems able to govern cell-specific behaviors in cultured neuronal networks.
The leading scope of this short review is to highlight how nanotube scaffolds can impact on neuronal
signaling ability. In particular, we will focus on the direct and specific interactions between this synthetic
nanomaterial and biological cell membranes, and on the ability of CNTs to improve interfaces developed
to record or to stimulate neuronal activity.
CNTs hold the potential for the development of innovative nanomaterial-based neurological implants.
Therefore, it is particularly relevant to improve our knowledge on the impact on neuronal performance
of interfacing nerve cells with CNTs.