Washington: A multi-institutional research team has developed a method to grow artificial tissues with embedded nanoscale sensors.These networks—which mark the first time that electronics and tissue have been truly merged in 3D—allow direct tissue sensing and potentially stimulation, a potential boon for development of engineered tissues that incorporate capabilities for monitoring and stimulation, and of devices for screening new drugs.The researcher team was led by Daniel Kohane, MD, PhD, in the Department of Anesthesia at Boston Children`s Hospital; Charles M. Lieber, PhD, at Harvard University; and Robert Langer, ScD, at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.One of the major challenges in developing bioengineered tissues is creating systems to sense what is going on (e.g., chemically, electrically) within a tissue after it has been grown and/or implanted. Similarly, researchers have struggled to develop methods to directly stimulate engineered tissues and measure cellular reactions.“In the body, the autonomic nervous system keeps track of pH, chemistry, oxygen and other factors, and triggers responses as needed. We need to be able to mimic the kind of intrinsic feedback loops the body has evolved in order to maintain fine control at the cellular and tissue level,” Kohane explained.With the autonomic nervous system as inspiration, a postdoctoral fellow in the Kohane lab, Bozhi Tian, PhD, and his collaborators built mesh-like networks of nanoscale silicon wires—about 80 nm in diameter—shaped like flat planes or in a “cotton-candy”-like reticular conformation. The networks were porous enough to allow the team to seed them with cells and encourage those cells to grow in 3D cultures.
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