In a groundbreaking development, scientists at the University of Chicago have created a prototype for “living bioelectronics”—a remarkable combination of living cells, gel, and electronics that can seamlessly integrate with living tissue. This innovative approach, published in the journal Science, marks a significant step forward in the field of bioelectronics and holds immense potential for various medical applications.

Prof. Bozhi Tian’s lab has been working to bridge the gap between the rigid world of electronics and the soft, flexible nature of the human body. Their latest creation, dubbed the ABLE platform (Active Biointegrated Living Electronics), consists of a thin, flexible electronic circuit with sensors, overlaid with a tapioca starch and gelatin-based gel that mimics the composition of human tissue. The final key component is the incorporation of S. epidermidis microbes, which are naturally found on human skin and possess anti-inflammatory properties.

Initial tests on mice prone to psoriasis-like skin conditions yielded promising results, with a significant reduction in symptoms observed over a week-long period. The researchers envision extending the treatment duration to six months or more, making it a convenient and long-lasting solution. Since the healing effects are derived from microbes, the device acts as a “living drug” that doesn’t require refilling.

The potential applications of this technology extend far beyond treating psoriasis. The researchers hope to explore its use in accelerating wound healing for diabetes patients, creating insulin-producing devices, and even interfacing with neurons. By harnessing the fundamental principles of how living cells and tissue interact with synthetic materials, Tian’s lab has opened up a world of possibilities for bioelectronics.

The development of the ABLE platform is the culmination of years of research and experimentation. Tian’s passion for pushing the boundaries of science has driven his team to uncover the intricacies of cell-material interfaces and the chemistry and physics of hydrogels. The ability to create “cyborg tissues” that seamlessly integrate living cells and electronics marks a significant milestone in the field.

As the researchers continue to refine and expand upon this technology, they are also working with the Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation to commercialize their findings. The potential impact of living bioelectronics on the medical field is immense, and this research serves as an inspiration for the next generation of electronic designs.

This article was originally published on iBIO NewsBrief. Gain a head start on your day with iBIO NewsBrief. Subscribe to receive top industry headlines delivered straight to your inbox.