TUESDAY, Aug. 28 (HealthDay News) -- U.S. scientists have created a type of "cyborg" tissue by embedding human tissue with a network of silicon "nano-wires" that can detect electrical signals generated by cells deep within the tissue.
This nano-network was also able to measure changes in those cellular signals that occurred in response to drugs that stimulate the heart or nervous system.
The researchers also created bio-engineered blood vessels with the embedded wires, which could detect pH changes that occur both inside and outside the vessels in response to inflammation, reduced blood flow and other influences.
"The current methods we have for monitoring or interacting with living systems are limited," team leader Charles Lieber, a professor of chemistry at Harvard University, said in a university news release.
"We can use electrodes to measure activity in cells or tissue, but that damages them. With this technology, for the first time, we can work at the same scale as the unit of biological system without interrupting it. 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," Lieber explained.
The study was published in the Aug. 26 issue of the journal Nature Materials.
There are a number of potential applications for this technology, but the most likely use in the near-term may be in the drug industry. The researchers said they could use the technology to assess how new drugs act in 3-D tissue, rather than in thin layers of cells.
The technology may also one day be used to monitor changes inside the body and provide appropriate responses, such as electrical stimulation or release of a drug, Lieber said.
Learn more about nanotechnology at the National Nanotechnology Initiative.
SOURCE: Harvard University, news release, Aug. 26, 2012
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