Saturday, September 29, 2012

Harvard Researchers Create "Cyborg Flesh"

Posted by YouTube user: BlankTV

According to an article in last month's Harvard Gazette, researchers at the university recently managed to successfully merge human tissues with embedded nanoelectronics, effectively creating what's being described as "cyborg flesh". I prefer the term "Terminator Meat", personally. But I doubt that phrase will catch on, given the scientific community's stubborn refusal to admit it's intention to build cybernetic death machines; not to be confused with Austrian Death Machine (see above). Also, now that I've read it back to myself, I've remembered how easy it is to make any phrase involving the word "meat", into something unintentionally dirty. Still, I think either term is technically correct, so use at your discretion.

Whatever you decide to call it, the tissue in question was created by developing what is essentially a rudimentary artificial autonomic nervous system, in the form of "Macroporous nanowire nanoelectronic scaffolds"; from the Harvard Gazette:
"Beginning with a two-dimensional substrate, researchers laid out a mesh of organic polymer around nanoscale wires, which serve as the critical sensing elements. Nanoscale electrodes, which connect the nanowire elements, were then built within the mesh to enable nanowire transistors to measure the activity in cells without damaging them. Once completed, the substrate was dissolved, leaving researchers with a netlike sponge, or a mesh, that can be folded or rolled into a host of three-dimensional shapes."

The most immediate use for the nanoscaled network of silicone wires and electrodes designed by the team, according to research leader Charles M. Lieber, is in the pharmaceutical industry, where it could be used to more precisely study how newly developed drugs act in three-dimensional tissues. But the development of even a basic electronic sensory system small enough, not only to be embedded into human tissues without distorting cell structure, but that could potentially be an early precursor to a system capable of being integrated directly into the body's own electrical and sensory system, is a pretty spectacular thing.

"The current methods we have for monitoring or interacting with living systems are limited," said Lieber. "We can use electrodes to measure activity in cells or tissue, but that damages them. With this technology, for the first time, we can work at the same scale as the unit of biological system without interrupting it. Ultimately, this is about merging tissue with electronics in a way that it becomes difficult to determine where the tissue ends and the electronics begin."

Whatever it's intended practical use or current level of functionality, with even the Harvard Gazette itself throwing around words like "cyborg flesh", one can't help but imagine some future iteration of the technology in question, one day finding it's way on and into the human body in some way, shape, or form. Because one of the main hurdles in trying to fully merge mechanical systems into organic ones, is finding a way to integrate artificial control and sensory systems into the body's own biological ones. And while something that advanced is a far cry from the basic, research based functions of the nanoscale silicone network developed for this project, the idea that we live in a world in which "cyborg flesh" is a reality on any scale, is a pretty amazing thing to consider.

Also, our robot-death-cheetahs look cold, and they want skin.

Posted by YouTube user: BostonDynamics

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