Bioengineers at Harvard University have emerged from their smoking labs having created the first examples of cyborg tissue.
According to ExtremeTech the researchers have managed to make neurons, heart cells, muscle, and blood vessels that are interwoven by nanowires and transistors.
This makes them half living cells, half electronics and jolly confused. The cells think that they are normal but the electronic side actually acts as a sensor network, allowing a computer to interface directly with them
For example the researchers have already used the embedded nanowires to measure the contractions (heart rate) of the cells.
Apparently if you want to create cyborg flesh, you start with a three-dimensional scaffold that encourages cells to grow around them. At this point it is not necessary to use double sided sellotape or find a responsible adult to help you with the scissors.
The scaffolds are made of collagen, which makes up the connective tissue in almost every animal. The Harvard researchers took normal collagen, and wove in nanowires and transistors to create nanoelectric scaffolds (nanoES).
The neurons, heart cells, muscle, and blood vessels were then grown as normal, creating cyborg tissue with a built-in sensor network.
So far the Havard team has grown rat tissues, which has not been so good for the rat. But they have also succeeded in growing a 1.5-centimeter (0.6in) cyborg human blood vessel.
Lead researcher Charles Lieber, the next step is to find a way of talking to the individual cells, to “wire up tissue and communicate with it in the same way a biological system does.”
It would create an interesting human. If you can use a digital computer to read and write data to your body’s cells you can give yourself a quick jolt of adrenaline by hitting a button on your phone.
You could augment your existing physiology with patches that integrates with your body and reports back if you experience any problems.