Electronics Added to Tissue ScaffoldsCategory: Science & Technology
Posted: August 28, 2012 06:05AM
A challenge when it comes to working with living cells is properly measuring their properties without damaging the cells. Sticking electrodes in places risk damaging them but the information has to be collected somehow, so researchers at Harvard University, MIT, and Boston Children's Hospital have worked together to create the first 3D scaffold with integrated electronics.
To create the scaffold the researchers started with a two dimensional substrate and placed a mesh made of an organic polymer on it. Within this mesh they then built the silicon components including sensors, transistors, and the nanowires connecting them. After the construction was finished, the substrate was dissolved away, leaving the flexible mesh which can be folded and rolled into many three dimensional shapes.
To test the scaffold and electronics, the researchers placed cardiac, nervous, and muscle cells on it. As they expected the cells grew into larger tissues on the scaffold, and as they hoped, they grew around the sensors, which were then able to detect the signals generated by the cells within the tissues. The researchers were even able to measure changes to the signals due to cardio- or neuro-stimulating drugs.
This cyborg technology has great potential in medical research and treatments. With a 3D structure like this, the effects of drugs can be determined more accurately than current 2D systems that also measure signals from cells. Medical implants could also be made with this technology that will respond to changes in the body and release appropriate drugs when needed.