A Bio-hybrid System Based on Engineered Cardiac Micro-tissues and Its application in Self-sustaining Bioelectronic Devices

Project: ResearchGRF

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Conventionally, the development of robotic system primarily employs rigid materials, such as metal and plastics. Most existing rigid-robots can be precisely programmed to perform a single or multiple tasks very efficiently. But the "nuts-and-bolts" based systems are likely limited in adaptability and sustainability. Living organisms, on the other hand, are capable of responding to complex environmental signals in a self-regulating format, and can be the inspiration source for engineers to make more capable machines. The integration of active elements from biological systems, such as cells and tissues, with mechanical or electronic interfaces presents unique opportunities for creating bio-hybrid machines that are adapted to respond to complex stimuli for a range of engineering applications. Recently, great progress has been made in the development of bio-hybrid devices with enhanced biological, mechanical and electrical designs. Several muscular tissue based actuators have been described; and devices with cultured heart cells have also been reported to produce electrical outputs. However, it is still challenging to extend the functional reservoir of bio-hybrid machines beyond actuation. In this proposed study, we will develop a controllable cell-based machine that integrates piezoelectric material with 3D-engineered living constructs. This biohybrid system can harvest mechanical energy from arrays of beating cardiomyocytes to generate electrical output for on-board powering/modulating bioelectronic devices. The “Cell Generator” will be based on an array of piezoelectric micro-cantilevers that are made of piezoelectric polymer, and are patterned with three-dimensionally cardiac muscle cells. The spontaneous contraction of the engineered cardiac constructs will provide the source of mechanical energy for electricity generation. We will demonstrate not only a single “Cell Generator” unit, but also a scale-up strategy to build expandable larger array that can provide output as high as a few volts for powering real bioelectronic devices. Also, this biohybrid generator system will be further develop into a self-powered self-sustaining neural stimulator to control the firing of action potentials in cultured neuronal networks. We believe that successful implementation of this project will provide an innovative perspective of engineering and exploiting live biological components and set a new stage for the development of self-sustaining cellular machines and bio-hybrid systems for a wide range of applications.


Effective start/end date1/01/18 → …