“One step closer to cyborgs – scientists create biological tissue with embedded wiring”
The researchers have created a self-supporting scaffolding of nanowires, each about 80 nanometers in diameter, bunched up in a chaotic, porous configuration that has been likened to cotton candy and coated with a biocompatible material. Cell cultures are then deposited in the gaps between the nanowires and grow to form a single structure with the signal-carrying nanowires. With this technology, researchers can work at the cellular scale much more effectively, without damaging the cells and with the capability to observe cells from anywhere within the tissue.
In preliminary experiments, heart and nerve cells were grown inside the nanostructured scaffolding. Using the networks of nanowires, the researchers could detect the cells’ electrical signals generated deep within the tissues and measure how they responded to cardio- or neurostimulating drugs. Then, they constructed bioengineered blood vessels with embedded nanowiring networks and showed that they could measure changes in pH, which normally happen in response to inflammation.
The technique could be used to build implanted diagnostic and therapeutic devices, lab-on-a-chip tissues for drug screening, and even, most excitingly, cyborg-like tissues that can autonomously sense changes within our bodies and respond appropriately – perhaps by delivering the required stimuli (and even drugs) in real time, on a cell-by-cell basis.