Researchers have developed a novel method for growing engineered tissues with embedded biocompatible nanoscale sensing networks.
The team including researchers from the Boston Children's Hospital, Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, embedded networks of the nanoscale wires within engineered tissues. This enables direct tissue sensing and possibly stimulation. This achievement may aid in development of drug screening devices and engineered tissues that have the capability to stimulate and monitor.
Researchers have faced difficulties in developing methods for stimulating engineered tissues and then measuring the cellular reactions. The human body has evolved an intrinsic feedback loop for maintaining fine control at the tissue and cellular level regarding the oxygen, chemistry and pH in the body.
The team used nanoscale silicon wires of around 80 nm diameter and built mesh-like networks. This led to a cotton-candy-like reticular conformation. The porous networks were seeded with cells which grew in 3D cultures.
Previously, culture cells were grown upon electronic components, in 2D layout formation. The present methods for monitoring living systems are limited, and when electrodes are used they cause damage to the tissue or cells being measured. The novel technology may help avoid disruption of the tissue or cellular architecture.
The research team utilized nerve and heart cells along with specific biocompatible coatings to design tissues inbuilt with embedded nanoscale networks. The electrical signals were detectable and the response to neuro and cardio stimulating drugs were also measurable.
Further, the researcher team demonstrated the use of embedded networks to build bioengineered blood vessels, and then use the networks to measure pH changes in the vessels. This relate to the response to ischemia, inflammation and other environments.
The study has been published in Nature Materials.