Nanotechnology Now

Our NanoNews Digest Sponsors

Heifer International

Wikipedia Affiliate Button

Home > Press > Printable 'bionic' ear melds electronics and biology

Scientists used 3-D printing to merge tissue and an antenna capable of receiving radio signals.

Credit: Photo by Frank Wojciechowski
Scientists used 3-D printing to merge tissue and an antenna capable of receiving radio signals.

Credit: Photo by Frank Wojciechowski

Abstract:
Scientists at Princeton University used off-the-shelf printing tools to create a functional ear that can "hear" radio frequencies far beyond the range of normal human capability.

Printable 'bionic' ear melds electronics and biology

Princeton, NJ | Posted on May 1st, 2013

The researchers' primary purpose was to explore an efficient and versatile means to merge electronics with tissue. The scientists used 3D printing of cells and nanoparticles followed by cell culture to combine a small coil antenna with cartilage, creating what they term a bionic ear.

"In general, there are mechanical and thermal challenges with interfacing electronic materials with biological materials," said Michael McAlpine, an assistant professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at Princeton and the lead researcher. "Previously, researchers have suggested some strategies to tailor the electronics so that this merger is less awkward. That typically happens between a 2D sheet of electronics and a surface of the tissue. However, our work suggests a new approach -- to build and grow the biology up with the electronics synergistically and in a 3D interwoven format."

McAlpine's team has made several advances in recent years involving the use of small-scale medical sensors and antenna. Last year, a research effort led by McAlpine and Naveen Verma, an assistant professor of electrical engineering, and Fio Omenetto of Tufts University, resulted in the development of a "tattoo" made up of a biological sensor and antenna that can be affixed to the surface of a tooth.

This project, however, is the team's first effort to create a fully functional organ: one that not only replicates a human ability, but extends it using embedded electronics

"The design and implementation of bionic organs and devices that enhance human capabilities, known as cybernetics, has been an area of increasing scientific interest," the researchers wrote in the article which appears in the scholarly journal Nano Letters. "This field has the potential to generate customized replacement parts for the human body, or even create organs containing capabilities beyond what human biology ordinarily provides."

Standard tissue engineering involves seeding types of cells, such as those that form ear cartilage, onto a scaffold of a polymer material called a hydrogel. However, the researchers said that this technique has problems replicating complicated three dimensional biological structures. Ear reconstruction "remains one of the most difficult problems in the field of plastic and reconstructive surgery," they wrote.

To solve the problem, the team turned to a manufacturing approach called 3D printing. These printers use computer-assisted design to conceive of objects as arrays of thin slices. The printer then deposits layers of a variety of materials - ranging from plastic to cells - to build up a finished product. Proponents say additive manufacturing promises to revolutionize home industries by allowing small teams or individuals to create work that could previously only be done by factories.

Creating organs using 3D printers is a recent advance; several groups have reported using the technology for this purpose in the past few months. But this is the first time that researchers have demonstrated that 3D printing is a convenient strategy to interweave tissue with electronics.

The technique allowed the researchers to combine the antenna electronics with tissue within the highly complex topology of a human ear. The researchers used an ordinary 3D printer to combine a matrix of hydrogel and calf cells with silver nanoparticles that form an antenna. The calf cells later develop into cartilage.

Manu Mannoor, a graduate student in McAlpine's lab and the paper's lead author, said that additive manufacturing opens new ways to think about the integration of electronics with biological tissue and makes possible the creation of true bionic organs in form and function. He said that it may be possible to integrate sensors into a variety of biological tissues, for example, to monitor stress on a patient's knee meniscus.

David Gracias, an associate professor at Johns Hopkins and co-author on the publication, said that bridging the divide between biology and electronics represents a formidable challenge that needs to be overcome to enable the creation of smart prostheses and implants.

"Biological structures are soft and squishy, composed mostly of water and organic molecules, while conventional electronic devices are hard and dry, composed mainly of metals, semiconductors and inorganic dielectrics," he said. "The differences in physical and chemical properties between these two material classes could not be any more pronounced."

The finished ear consists of a coiled antenna inside a cartilage structure. Two wires lead from the base of the ear and wind around a helical "cochlea" - the part of the ear that senses sound - which can connect to electrodes. Although McAlpine cautions that further work and extensive testing would need to be done before the technology could be used on a patient, he said the ear in principle could be used to restore or enhance human hearing. He said electrical signals produced by the ear could be connected to a patient's nerve endings, similar to a hearing aid. The current system receives radio waves, but he said the research team plans to incorporate other materials, such as pressure-sensitive electronic sensors, to enable the ear to register acoustic sounds.

In addition to McAlpine, Verma, Mannoor and Gracias the research team includes: Winston Soboyejo, a professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at Princeton; Karen Malatesta, a faculty fellow in molecular biology at Princeton; Yong Lin Kong, a graduate student in mechanical and aerospace engineering at Princeton; and Teena James, a graduate student in chemical and biomolecular engineering at Johns Hopkins.

The team also included Ziwen Jiang, a high school student at the Peddie School in Hightstown who participated as part of an outreach program for young researchers in McAlpine's lab.

"Ziwen Jiang is one of the most spectacular high school students I have ever seen," McAlpine said. "We would not have been able to complete this project without him, particularly in his skill at mastering CAD designs of the bionic ears."

Support for the project was provided by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, the Air Force Office of Scientific Research, NIH, and the Grand Challenges Program at Princeton University.

####

For more information, please click here

Contacts:
John Sullivan

609-258-4597

Copyright © Princeton University, Engineering School

If you have a comment, please Contact us.

Issuers of news releases, not 7th Wave, Inc. or Nanotechnology Now, are solely responsible for the accuracy of the content.

Bookmark:
Delicious Digg Newsvine Google Yahoo Reddit Magnoliacom Furl Facebook

Related News Press

News and information

University of Akron researchers find thin layers of water can become ice-like at room temperature: Results could lead to an assortment of anti-friction solutions August 30th, 2016

Nanocatalysis for organic chemistry: This research article by Dr. Qien Xu et al. is published in Current Organic Chemistry, Volume 20, Issue 19, 2016 August 30th, 2016

Continuous roll-process technology for transferring and packaging flexible LSI August 29th, 2016

Meteorite impact on a nano scale August 29th, 2016

Govt.-Legislation/Regulation/Funding/Policy

Analog DNA circuit does math in a test tube: DNA computers could one day be programmed to diagnose and treat disease August 25th, 2016

New approach to determining how atoms are arranged in materials August 25th, 2016

Johns Hopkins scientists track metabolic pathways to find drug combination for pancreatic cancer August 25th, 2016

New electrical energy storage material shows its power: Nanomaterial combines attributes of both batteries and supercapacitors August 25th, 2016

Nanomedicine

Designing ultrasound tools with Lego-like proteins August 29th, 2016

Nanofiber scaffolds demonstrate new features in the behavior of stem and cancer cells August 25th, 2016

Johns Hopkins scientists track metabolic pathways to find drug combination for pancreatic cancer August 25th, 2016

50 years after the release of the film 'Fantastic Voyage,' science upstages fiction: Science upstages fiction with nanorobotic agents designed to travel in the human body to treat cancer August 25th, 2016

Sensors

A promising route to the scalable production of highly crystalline graphene films August 26th, 2016

Down to the wire: ONR researchers and new bacteria August 18th, 2016

'Sniffer plasmons' could detect explosives: Scientists have proposed a graphene-based spaser that can detect even small amounts of various substances, including explosives August 16th, 2016

Perpetual 'ice water': Stable solid-liquid state revealed in nanoparticles: Gallium nanoparticles that are both solid and liquid are stable over a range of 1000 degrees Fahrenheit August 5th, 2016

Discoveries

University of Akron researchers find thin layers of water can become ice-like at room temperature: Results could lead to an assortment of anti-friction solutions August 30th, 2016

Nanocatalysis for organic chemistry: This research article by Dr. Qien Xu et al. is published in Current Organic Chemistry, Volume 20, Issue 19, 2016 August 30th, 2016

Continuous roll-process technology for transferring and packaging flexible LSI August 29th, 2016

Meteorite impact on a nano scale August 29th, 2016

Announcements

University of Akron researchers find thin layers of water can become ice-like at room temperature: Results could lead to an assortment of anti-friction solutions August 30th, 2016

Nanocatalysis for organic chemistry: This research article by Dr. Qien Xu et al. is published in Current Organic Chemistry, Volume 20, Issue 19, 2016 August 30th, 2016

Continuous roll-process technology for transferring and packaging flexible LSI August 29th, 2016

Meteorite impact on a nano scale August 29th, 2016

Military

New electrical energy storage material shows its power: Nanomaterial combines attributes of both batteries and supercapacitors August 25th, 2016

Nanoparticles that speed blood clotting may someday save lives August 23rd, 2016

Curbing the life-long effects of traumatic brain injury August 19th, 2016

Lab team spins ginger into nanoparticles to heal inflammatory bowel disease August 19th, 2016

Printing/Lithography/Inkjet/Inks

Tailored probes for atomic force microscopes: 3-D laser lithography enhances microscope for studying nanostructures in biology and engineering/ publication in Applied Physics Letters August 11th, 2016

Smarter self-assembly opens new pathways for nanotechnology: Brookhaven Lab scientists discover a way to create billionth-of-a-meter structures that snap together in complex patterns with unprecedented efficiency August 9th, 2016

Nanoscientists develop the 'ultimate discovery tool': Rapid discovery power is similar to what gene chips offer biology June 25th, 2016

Perovskite solar cells surpass 20 percent efficiency: EPFL researchers are pushing the limits of perovskite solar cell performance by exploring the best way to grow these crystals June 13th, 2016

NanoNews-Digest
The latest news from around the world, FREE




  Premium Products
NanoNews-Custom
Only the news you want to read!
 Learn More
NanoTech-Transfer
University Technology Transfer & Patents
 Learn More
NanoStrategies
Full-service, expert consulting
 Learn More











ASP
Nanotechnology Now Featured Books




NNN

The Hunger Project







Car Brands
Buy website traffic