Researchers at Harvard University have managed to grow human tissue around a complex scaffolding of nanowires and transistors, creating so-called cyborg flesh that can monitor and transmit data such as a body's heart rate. Writing in a paper published in the journal Nature Materials, the scientists describe how they've managed to create a 0.6-inch human blood vessel, as well as more complex structures using rat tissue, taking measurements from sensors embedded in the flesh.
The technique, still in its infancy, could be used to test drugs, with connected, synthetic tissue providing accurate, high-resolution data. As the New Scientist points out, it could also be used to create biological versions of in-body machines such as pacemakers. The key to many potential uses will be proper two-way communication between cells and exterior sources, something that the team is currently working on — according to lead researcher Charles Lieber, the goal is to "wire up tissue and communicate with it in the same way a biological system does."