The lines between biology and technology become much more blurred, thanks to the first organic electrodes grown directly in the brain and other living tissue of zebrafish and leeches: the result, published in the journal Science by the Swedish universities of Linköping, Lund and Gothenburg, opens in fact the road to a future of electronic circuits fully integrated into the body, to cure diseases of the nervous system and to develop the next generation interfaces between man and machine.
Conventional bioelectronics have a rigid and immutable design, making them very difficult to integrate into biological systems. To bridge this gap, researchers have developed a soft, electrically conducting material composed of enzymes, which can be injected in the form of a gel: “Contact with substances in the body changes the structure of the gel – explains Xenofon Strakosas from Linköping and Lund Universities and one of the researchers leading the study together with Hanne Biesmans from Linköping – and makes it electrically conductive, which it is not before the injection”.
In practice, the molecules present inside the body are sufficient to trigger the formation of the electrodes: there is therefore no need for genetic modifications or external signals such as light, which were instead required in previous experiments. Furthermore, by modifying the molecules present in the material, the researchers have also managed to circumvent the defenses of the immune system, causing it not to attack them. The first laboratory tests succeeded in obtaining the formation of electrodes in the brain, heart and tail fins of zebrafish and around the nervous tissue of leeches. The animals were not injured or affected in any way by the injection of the gel and the formation of the electrical circuits.
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