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They manage to grow “soft” electrodes in living animals: “Now biology makes electronics for us”

The boundaries between biology and technology are increasingly blurred. Researchers at Sweden’s Linköping, Lund and Gothenburg universities have succeeded in cultivating electrodes. soft Using body molecules as activators in living tissues. The result was published in this Thursday’s Journal ScienceIt paves the way for the formation of fully integrated electronic circuits in living organisms.

“For several decades we have been trying to create electronics that mimic biology. Now we’ve let biology create electronics for us,” says Professor Magnus Berggren from Linköping University’s Laboratory of Organic Electronics (LOE) in a press release.

Connecting electronics to biological tissue is important for understanding complex biological functions and fighting brain and neurological diseases. It will also enable future interfaces between humans and machines.

However, the researchers add that conventional bioelectronics, developed in parallel with the semiconductor industry, have fixed, static designs that are difficult, if not impossible, to integrate with living biological signaling systems.

New technology is paving the way for future human-machine interfaces

To bridge this gap between biology and technology, researchers have developed a method to create soft materials and electronic conductors in living tissue. All this without what is known in electronics as a “substrate”, the base on which other electronic devices are placed.

Now, by injecting a gel containing enzymes as “assembly molecules,” researchers have succeeded in growing electrodes in the tissue of zebrafish and medicated leeks.

Initiation of “electrical process”.

“Contact with substances in the body changes the structure of the gel and makes it electrically conductive, which was not the case before the injection. Depending on the tissue, we can also adjust the composition of the gel to trigger the electrical process,” explains Xenophon Strakosas, researcher at LOE and Lund University and one of the lead authors of the study.

According to them, the body’s endogenous molecules are sufficient for the formation of electrodes. “There is no need for genetic modification or external signals such as light or electricity, which were necessary in previous experiments. Swedish researchers are the first in the world to achieve this,” the press release said.

The authors of the study say that this paves the way for a new paradigm in bioelectronics, because if previously it was necessary to implant physical objects in the body to start electronic processes, in the future it will be enough to inject a viscous gel.

The researchers claim to have further demonstrated that this method can target an electronically conductive material to specific biological structures, thereby creating suitable interfaces for neural stimulation. “In the long term, it may be possible to make electronic circuits fully integrated in living organisms,” the note said.

in the brain, heart and fins

In experiments conducted at Lund University, the team succeeded in forming electrodes in the brain, heart and tail fins of zebrafish, and in the nervous tissue of medicinal leeches. The animals were not harmed by the injected gel, nor were they affected by the formation of the electrodes. One of the challenges of these trials was taking into account the immune system of the animals.

“By making clever changes to the chemistry, we were able to develop electrodes that were accepted by brain tissue and the immune system. The zebrafish is an excellent model for studying organic electrodes in the brain,” says Professor Roger Olsson from Lund University Medical School, who also has a chemistry laboratory at the University of Gothenburg. It was Professor Roger Olson who initiated the research after reading about it An electronic rose created by researchers at Linköping University in 2015.

By making clever changes to the chemistry, we were able to develop electrodes that were accepted by brain tissue and the immune system.

Roger Olson
Faculty of Medicine, Lund University

One of the research problems and an important difference between plants and animals was the difference in cell structure. While plants have rigid cell walls that allow electrodes to form, animal cells are a softer mass. Creating a gel with sufficient structure and the right combination of substances to create electrodes in this environment was a challenge that took many years to solve.

“Our results open up entirely new ways of thinking about biology and electronics. We still have many problems to solve, but this study is a good starting point for future research,” says Hanne Bismans, LOE PhD student and one of the lead authors.

Tara Spiers-Jones, president-elect of the British Association for Neuroscience and the Center for Brain Science Discovery and the Institute for Dementia Research at the University of Edinburgh, spoke about the progress in a collection of statements. Scientific Media Center Spain: “While scientifically very interesting and will no doubt encourage further research, this research on zebrafish, pups and meat (the gel also occurs in pork, beef and chicken, but not tofu) is a long way from directly integrating your cell phone. with your brain.”

Source: El Diario





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