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

Project: Research

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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 toperform a single or multiple tasks very efficiently. But the "nuts-and-bolts" based systems arelikely limited in adaptability and sustainability. Living organisms, on the other hand, arecapable of responding to complex environmental signals in a self-regulating format, and canbe the inspiration source for engineers to make more capable machines. The integration ofactive elements from biological systems, such as cells and tissues, with mechanical orelectronic interfaces presents unique opportunities for creating bio-hybrid machines that areadapted to respond to complex stimuli for a range of engineering applications. Recently, greatprogress has been made in the development of bio-hybrid devices with enhanced biological,mechanical and electrical designs. Several muscular tissue based actuators have beendescribed; and devices with cultured heart cells have also been reported to produce electricaloutputs. However, it is still challenging to extend the functional reservoir of bio-hybridmachines beyond actuation.In this proposed study, we will develop a controllable cell-based machine that integratespiezoelectric material with 3D-engineered living constructs. This biohybrid system canharvest mechanical energy from arrays of beating cardiomyocytes to generate electricaloutput for on-board powering/modulating bioelectronic devices. The “Cell Generator” will bebased on an array of piezoelectric micro-cantilevers that are made of piezoelectric polymer,and are patterned with three-dimensionally cardiac muscle cells. The spontaneous contractionof the engineered cardiac constructs will provide the source of mechanical energy forelectricity generation. We will demonstrate not only a single “Cell Generator” unit, but also ascale-up strategy to build expandable larger array that can provide output as high as a fewvolts for powering real bioelectronic devices. Also, this biohybrid generator system will befurther develop into a self-powered self-sustaining neural stimulator to control the firing ofaction potentials in cultured neuronal networks. We believe that successful implementation ofthis project will provide an innovative perspective of engineering and exploiting livebiological components and set a new stage for the development of self-sustaining cellularmachines and bio-hybrid systems for a wide range of applications.


Project number9042478
Grant typeGRF
Effective start/end date1/01/18 → …