Researchers have patented a new approach for developing carbon-based bioelectronic devices, which have a variety of applications in drug delivery, substance detection, and organ modulation.
Bioelectronic devices have gained much research attention, especially due to their application in cardiac pacemakers and cochlear implants. However, most developed bioelectronic devices are heavy, and are battery powered. Moreover, they are mechanically invasive to cells and tissues. Therefore, there is an urgent need for smaller and more flexible bioelectronic devices. Researchers have been exploring new ways to implement flexible devices imitating cellular behavior using semiconductor nanomaterials and augmenting existing biological systems with semiconductor components.
Most of the research studies involve usage of silicon semiconductors. However, silicon has some drawbacks, such as issues with stability, so a team of researchers from the University of Chicago decided to focus on a different material: carbon. They developed a new approach for developing carbon-based bioelectronic devices, which have a variety of applications in drug delivery, substance detection, and organ modulation.
According to Aleksander Prominski, a Ph.D. student in Bozhi Tian’s lab , the following approach results in a monolithic material, which means that it doesn’t require a polymer binder that often leads to bulkier devices. Using this approach, the researchers can fabricate devices that, in addition to being monolithic, are flexible, conducting, and most importantly, biocompatible.
“We have shown that hierarchical carbon membranes form high-quality interfaces with biological structures and enabled modulations of cells, tissues, and nerves,” explained Prominski.
“In our body, the way that cells and tissues communicate is to use ions, so we decided to manipulate these ions using this electrochemical device. The basic idea is to use the material to attract and repel ions,” explained Tian. “Our tissues are very complicated; they do not just communicate chemically, but electrically.”
“Bioelectronics is highly interdisciplinary field and it benefits techniques across the physical and life sciences through facilitating novel insights into the fundamental scientific understanding and facilitating a variety of biomedical applications,” said Meng, who is focusing her research on using synthetic materials for cellular and intracellular biomodulations.
The work has been published in the journal Nature Nanotechnology.