Cyborganics

Cyborganics – merging inanimate materials with living organisms

Tuesday 30 Oct 18
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Contact

Mehdi Mehrali
Postdoc
DTU Nanotech
+45 45 25 81 42

Contact

Alireza Dolatshahi-Pirouz
Assistant Professor
DTU Nanotech
+45 45 25 81 38

Researchers from DTU Nanotech published a review article in Advanced Science exploring the role of flexible and electrically active materials in the rapidly developing area of cybernetics and cyborganics.

 

The online version was published on 1 August 2018, and the paper also made the Inside Front Cover of Advanced Science, Vol. 5, Issue 10, October 2018.

Cybernetics is the combination of electronics and living organisms. Today, although in a less invasive manner, many people are already keeping track of their body, e.g. counting steps or tracking sleep patterns and pulse to get more information about their health and wellbeing. In the future with cybernetic developments, it will be possible to get a much more detailed view on the state of your body, remedy health problems and maybe even increase your physiological or mental performance through the incorporation of electronics into the body.

Cyborganics

To Assistant Professor Alireza Dolatshahi-Pirouz, who is the last author of the article, one of the exciting topics within cybernetics is cyborganics. Here the aim is to create a new class of hybrid organs and hydrogel carriers made from a combination of living and non-living materials. Cyborganics is still in its infancy but promises the possibility of a wide range of replacement organs with a better performance compared to the normal range of human organs. An example is a device integrated in the body that can measure heart activity, detect heart malfunctions, and stimulate the heart by releasing the right drugs when such a malfunction is detected.

Flexible electronics

One of the major advances in cyborganics is flexible electronics. To combine electronics with living tissue, the electronic parts need to be flexible to fit and adapt to the soft and moving living tissue. Other factors are toughness and biocompatibility as the materials must be able to stand the harsh environment of living tissue and of course not present any risks in terms of toxicity.

One of the contributions from Alireza Dolatshahi-Pirouz’s research group to this rapidly developing area is exactly within flexible bioelectronics. He is working on polymers that are flexible, electrically active, biocompatible and conductive. The aim is to include cells in the polymer, and through electrical stimuli make the cells release growth factors that can repair damaged tissue.

Ethical concerns

Cybernetics comes with important ethical questions and challenges. As such, it is vital not to do any harm to people or the society when developing the materials and devices. For example everything has to be tested extensively before it is actually implanted into a human being. But there is also the question about what we can do technically, and what we want to do as a society. E.g. if we can create artificial organs and spare parts for our body - then at some point we have to look at the ethical aspects of life extension.

In this vein, the final concluding remark of the article is that the implementation of many cybernetic inventions needs to be carefully evaluated to make sure they follow ethical guidelines.

 

Read the full article here

And see the cover here

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