Scientists at Harvard have created a new system for using nanoscale wires to create scaffolds upon which human cells can grow into tissue. The combined “cyborg tissue” will enable researchers to measure chemical or electrical changes in living tissue. From the Harvard Gazette:
The process of building the networks, Lieber said, is similar to that used to etch microchips.
Beginning with a two-dimensional substrate, researchers laid out a mesh of organic polymer around nanoscale wires, which serve as the critical sensing elements. Nanoscale electrodes, which connect the nanowire elements, were then built within the mesh to enable nanowire transistors to measure the activity in cells without damaging them. Once completed, the substrate was dissolved, leaving researchers with a netlike sponge, or a mesh, that can be folded or rolled into a host of three-dimensional shapes.
Once complete, the networks were porous enough to allow the team to seed them with cells and encourage those cells to grow in 3-D cultures.
Takeaway quote from Charles M. Lieber, Mark Hyman Jr. Professor of Chemistry at Harvard: “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.”