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.
Previously, to probe electrical activity of living systems, scientists have developed flat, flexible devices that stretch along the outside of an organ, such as the heart, brain, or skin (see "Making Stretchable Electronics"). But these materials only monitor electrical activity at the surface of a tissue.