Lines between man and machine blur as Harvard bioengineers develop cybernetic tissue.
A bioengineering team at Harvard University has created the world's first hybrid of living cells and electronic components. Neurons, muscle cells, and blood vessels (taken from rats) were been spliced with nanowires and transistors that can monitor bioelectric impulses, and researchers predict subtle variations in the technology will let them control cellular behavior.
"It allows one to effectively blur the boundary between electronic, inorganic systems and organic, biological ones," team leader Charles Lieber told NewScientist. While these first cyborg tissues are functionally limited, it could reportedly be applied for drug testing, construction of pacemaker-type implants and prosthetics, or even neural observation and medical nano-robotics.
Now, as a rule of thumb, the crazier a potential application of cyborg tech sounds, the less likely we'll see it implemented in the foreseeable future. But the concept of lab-grown "organs-on-a-chip" - whole cybernetically interwoven human organs to obviate human- and animal-test subjects - apparently isn't too many years away.