Bioengineering has become an area of rapid development over the past couple of years. Stem-cell research, cloning, and synthetic life have all shown major advancements even though they remain just as controversial as the day they were introduced. Now you can add one more item to the list of bio-tech: a team of scientists have successfully grown tissue on top of tiny, nanoscale wire scaffolding, creating the first integrated and working cybernetic flesh.
Attempts have been made before to integrate circuitry and tissue, but the problem has always been how to make the electronic pathways a useful method of receiving and transmitting signals to the body. According to Phys.org, a team lead by Dr. Daniel Kohane of the Department of Anesthesia at Boston Children’s Hospital (which is just a little bit creepy) has finally beat this problem. By growing the tissue on a scaffolding of nanoscale wires, the team was able to integrate both cells and circuitry in all three dimensions instead of just growing the tissue on top of a layer of circuitry. Kohane said he used the body’s autonomic nervous system as his inspiration.
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.
All of this sounds neat, but what is it actually capable of doing? With sensor systems embedded directly into a person’s flesh, you could essentially detect inflammation on a cellular level and automatically trigger a drug release into the system to combat or treat injuries. Another benefit is that with this level of information, you could have medical diagnostics done with a level of accuracy and speed that is unprecedented. This is all still pie in the sky though, as a person would basically have to graft the artificially grown flesh onto their body. If we reach a point where growing artificial organs and limbs for people who need new ones goes into widespread use, however, transplant rejection could be a thing of the past.
And now you know what the green space magic did at the end of Mass Effect 3.