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NEWS
Researchers Study Controlling Cells In The Body To Treat Conditions
September 21, 2020

Like electronic devices, biological cells send and receive messages, but they communicate through very different mechanisms. Now, scientists report progress on tiny communication networks that overcome this language barrier, allowing electronics to eavesdrop on cells and alter their behavior — and vice versa. These systems could enable applications including a wearable device that could diagnose and treat a bacterial infection or a capsule that could be swallowed to track blood sugar and make insulin when needed.

The researchers will presented their results, “Connecting biology to electronics through a redox communication network of tyrosine, tyrosinase, and eumelanin,” recently at the American Chemical Society (ACS) Fall 2020 Virtual Meeting & Expo.

“We want to expand electronic information processing to include biology,” says principal investigator William E. Bentley, Ph.D. “Our goal is to incorporate biological cells in the computational decision-making process.”

According to information, the new technology Dr. Bentley’s team developed relies on redox mediators, which move electrons around cells. These small molecules carry out cellular activities by accepting or giving up electrons through reduction or oxidation reactions. Because they can also exchange electrons with electrodes, thereby producing a current, redox mediators can bridge the gap between hardware and living tissue. In ongoing work, the team, which includes co-principal investigator Gregory F. Payne, Ph.D., is developing interfaces to enable this information exchange, opening the way for electronic control of cellular behavior, as well as cellular feedback that could operate electronics.

The researchers acknowledge funding from the National Science Foundation, the Defense Threat Reduction Agency, and the Advanced Mammalian Biomanufacturing Innovation Center.


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