BBC News is reporting on an amazing advance in biomedical silicon chip technology from researchers at Edinburgh University in Scotland. Using a technique that allows neurons to grow in tiny detailed patterns on the surface of a silicon chip, the pioneers of this process have moved us one step closer to repairing or replacing damaged human tissue with silicon technology.
During the chip manufacturing process, the scientists printed patterns on the smooth silicon surface. The chip was then dipped in a patented mixture of proteins, and neurons grew along the patterns on the surface. The technique also works with stem cells.
Consider the eventual applications of this process: using micro-surgery to implant silicon prosthetics to replace any tissue in the human body. To a degree, this is already being done in patients suffering from retinal diseases where Artificial Silicon Retinas are implanted to improve vision. But the Edinburgh researchers’ advance takes this to an entirely new level by opening the possibility of replacing or repairing any tissue that can be “mapped” onto micro silicon chips.
Much sooner than that, this technology could lead to alternatives to animal testing, the theory being that new drugs would be tested on tissue constructed from silicon chips rather than the live tissue of animals.
Below is a video discussing biomedical advances in creating a bionic eye using silicon chip technology, and below that is a video discussing the creation of a prosthetic trachea using a patient’s own stem cells.