The researchers say that this is the first time they have been able to completely integrate electronics into a biological system. According to New Scientist, the Harvard scientists want to improve the technology so that it becomes impossible to determine where the organic tissue ends and the electronics begin.
Are you creeped out yet?
The team of Harvard scientists first developed a biology-sensing network of nanoscale electrodes and nanowires held together by a mesh of organic polymers. Once assembled, the scientists dissolved the organic components, leaving a porous and flexible network of electronics.
From there, the scientists seeded several of their nanoscale meshes with cells from neurons, the heart, muscles, and blood vessels, creating different pieces of cyborg tissue.
The greatest obstacle to developing cyborg tissue involves incorporating electrodes to monitor cell activity without interrupting or damaging them. Harvard’s new process, however, uses a built-in nano-sized sensor network that monitors the cells without interfering with their normal functions.
With their cybernetic tissues, the researchers were able to measure the changes in heart and nerve cells when using cardio- or neuro-stimulating drugs, along with blood vessel’s change in PH levels in response to inflammation.
One of the near term uses of this technology could be in pharmaceutical industry, where chemists could more closely monitor the effects of drugs on certain organs. Potentially, though, this research could one day lead to the development of synthetic organs that we can control at will.