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Merging tissue and electronics

Merging tissue and electronics | Muscular system |


Anne Trafton

"To control the three-dimensional shape of engineered tissue, researchers grow cells on tiny, sponge-like scaffolds. These devices can be implanted into patients or used in the lab to study tissue responses to potential drugs.

A team of researchers from MIT, Harvard University and Boston Children’s Hospital has now added a new element to tissue scaffolds: electronic sensors. These sensors, made of silicon nanowires, could be used to monitor electrical activity in the tissue surrounding the scaffold, control drug release or screen drug candidates for their effects on the beating of heart tissue.

The research, published online Aug. 26 in Nature Materials, could also pave the way for development of tissue-engineered hearts, says Robert Langer, the David H. Koch Institute Professor at MIT and a senior author of the paper...."

ref to:
*Macroporous nanowire nanoelectronic scaffolds for synthetic tissues*

Bozhi Tian, Jia Liu, Tal Dvir, Lihua Jin, Jonathan H. Tsui, Quan Qing, Zhigang Suo, Robert Langer, Daniel S. Kohane & Charles M. Lieber

"The development of three-dimensional (3D) synthetic biomaterials as structural and bioactive scaffolds is central to fields ranging from cellular biophysics to regenerative medicine. As of yet, these scaffolds cannot electrically probe the physicochemical and biological microenvironments throughout their 3D and macroporous interior, although this capability could have a marked impact in both electronics and biomaterials. Here, we address this challenge using macroporous, flexible and free-standing nanowire nanoelectronic scaffolds (nanoES), and their hybrids with synthetic or natural biomaterials. 3D macroporous nanoES mimic the structure of natural tissue scaffolds, and they were formed by self-organization of coplanar reticular networks with built-in strain and by manipulation of 2D mesh matrices. NanoES exhibited robust electronic properties and have been used alone or combined with other biomaterials as biocompatible extracellular scaffolds for 3D culture of neurons, cardiomyocytes and smooth muscle cells. Furthermore, we show the integrated sensory capability of the nanoES by real-time monitoring of the local electrical activity within 3D nanoES/cardiomyocyte constructs, the response of 3D-nanoES-based neural and cardiac tissue models to drugs, and distinct pH changes inside and outside tubular vascular smooth muscle constructs."

Via Gerd Moe-Behrens
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Light-activated skeletal muscle could be used to make realistic robots (Wired UK)

Light-activated skeletal muscle could be used to make realistic robots (Wired UK) | Muscular system |
A team of bioengineers has genetically engineered skeletal muscle tissue to produce a protein that reacts to light, and plans to use it to build a robot with realistic maneuverability...

Via Kit Newton
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Cyborg tissue acts as smart scaffolding at a cellular level

Cyborg tissue acts as smart scaffolding at a cellular level | Muscular system |

Researchers at Harvard University have constructed a material that merges nanoscale electronics with biological tissues—a literal mesh of transistors and cells.


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.


To test the construct's sensing capabilities, the team performed experiments with living cells. They grew neurons in the scaffold, then successfully monitored the cells' firing activity in response to excitatory neurotransmitters; they observed heart cells on one side of the tissue beating in subtly different ways than cells on the other side; and they monitored pH changes on the inside and outside of a simplified blood vessel, made of rolled construct and smooth muscle cells.


Harvard University chemist Charles Lieber Lieber says numerous pharmaceutical companies have already expressed interest in the scaffolds to monitor drug responses in different tissues. "That's the nearest-term application," he says—but not the ultimate goal. Someday, Lieber would like to develop tissue grafts that can report their function to doctors and provide immediate feedback to a tissue when necessary, such as releasing a drug into the skin or lungs. "We have the opportunity to merge electronics with cellular systems," he says.

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