Cyborg Tissues Combine Transistors and Cells

A new material merges nanoscale electronics with living tissues - a cyborg tissue mesh.


(Cyborg tissue mesh)

The cyborg-like tissue, described online at Nature Materials, supports cell growth while simultaneously monitoring the activities of those cells. It could improve in vitro drug screening by allowing researchers to track how cells in a three-dimensional environment respond to drugs in real time, the authors say. It may also be a first step toward prosthetics that communicate directly with the nervous system, and tissue implants that sense and respond to injury or disease.

The nanoelectronic scaffolds were made from a thin mesh of metal nanowires, either straight or kinked, dotted with tiny transistors that detect electrical activity. The researchers folded or rolled the mesh into a three-dimensional structure to simulate a piece of tissue or a blood vessel, respectively. The result is a scaffold that is both porous and flexible—not an easy feat for electronics.

The scaffold was then seeded with cells or merged with conventional biomaterials, such as collagen, into hybrid scaffolds. "It shows, from a materials perspective, that you can combine these electronic networks with virtually anything," adds Harvard University chemist Charles Lieber.

The first sf writer to combine electronic and tiny portions of living systems to create new products was Philip K. Dick. For examples, think of the swibble from his 1955 short story Service Call and the psycho-lease encephalic gadget from his 1969 story Galactic Pot-Healer.

As far as every day consumer products are concerned, you can't beat the Ampek F-a2 Recording System:

Nat Flieger reflexively poured water into a cup and fed the living protoplasm incorporated into the Ampek F-a2 recording system which he kept in his office; the Ganymedean life form did not experience pain and had not yet objected to being made over into a portion of an electronic system... neurologically it was primitive, but as an auditory receptor it was unexcelled.

(Read more about Dick's Ampek F-a2 Recording System)

Via Technology Review.

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