Over the past few years, scientists have created a number of artificial organs that they could be collected in an artificial body. This, of course, a joke, and artificial organs are being developed for other purposes. In particular, in order to better understand their work and interaction with various substances. But if “whole” bodies, all more or less clear, but to follow the work of individual cells is not so easy. This is largely due to the fact that the sensors are quite difficult to put into cells without damaging them. However, scientists from Harvard have figured out how to work around this limitation: to grow cells, which initially will be electronic components.
Why grow “cells-cyborgs”?
First and foremost, this is necessary in order to better learn about the development of various diseases, how they affect the organs and how to beat them. Besides, this approach will help far better to test drugs, finding out more about their impact at the cellular and subcellular levels.
Do not think that this early never crossed my mind. Such attempts were undertaken and earlier. Miniature, so to speak version of the bodies have already been recreated in every detail, except that all the sensors that allow to study the interaction of the body with the external environment, fastened, so to speak, ‘outside’, without penetrating into cells. But researchers from the Harvard School found a way to integrate the sensors with the process of nucleation of the cells to when the cells have formed, all the necessary “equipment” would be “installed”.
How to create cells with electronics inside
The process of creating such cells actually look much easier than it might seem at first glance. For his project, the scientists took a flexible nanoelectronic sensors (but reduced) made in the form of loose mesh. Such sensors are typically used when creating wearable electronics. Further to these sensors was applied several layers of stem cells. After that… it remained only to wait (it’s possible that scientists were spending their time in reading interesting news from the world of high technologies).
Cells during division gradually grew up around the sensor and formed fabric. Over time, cells became organoidy three-dimensional structure, inside which there electronic grid. The final result is cyberarena – bodies with fully integrated sensors.
I think that if we can develop the nanoelectronics, which is so flexible, stretchable and soft that it can change with a developing fabric, embedded sensors can measure the activity of the development process, says Jia Liu, lead author of the study. The end result of our work is a piece of fabric with nano-size device, fully integrated and workable.
In their tests the researchers were able to cause stem cells to differentiate into cardiomyocytes (cells of the heart and), and then use the built-in sensors for monitoring and recording cell activity within 90 days.
The new method allows us to continuously monitor the development of tissues at the cellular level and understand how the dynamics of growth of individual cells affect the whole body in General.