Electronics, living tissue, merged in lab

Aug. 28, 2012 at 4:09 PM
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CAMBRIDGE, Mass., Aug. 28 (UPI) -- U.S. researchers say they have successfully created a type of "cyborg" tissue by embedding nano-electronics into engineered human tissues.

The tissues, containing a 3-D network of functional, bio-compatible nanoscale wires, were created by seeding cells into nanoscale "scaffolds," Harvard University reported.

Such "cyborg" -- or cybernetic organism -- tissues could be capable of sensing chemical or electrical changes in the tissue after it has been grown and implanted into living systems, researchers said.

"The current methods we have for monitoring or interacting with living systems are limited," Harvard chemist Charles M. Leiber said. "We can use electrodes to measure activity in cells or tissue, but that damages them.

"With this technology, for the first time, we can work at the same scale as the unit of biological system without interrupting it. Ultimately, this is about merging tissue with electronics in a way that it becomes difficult to determine where the tissue ends and the electronics begin."

Researchers said they hope to develop methods to directly stimulate engineered tissues and measure cellular reactions.

"In the body, the autonomic nervous system keeps track of pH, chemistry, oxygen and other factors, and triggers responses as needed," researcher Daniel Kohane of the Harvard Medical School said. "We need to be able to mimic the kind of intrinsic feedback loops the body has evolved in order to maintain fine control at the cellular and tissue level."

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