If we are to believe sci-fi literature, the future will bring us micromachines containing biological elements integrated in manufactured devices. It is now clear that even scientists are serious about realizing this concept. In the February issue of Nature Materials, Carlo Montemagno and colleagues show that it is now possible to start with single cells on silicon chips and obtain micromechanical devices operated by muscle tissue.
Their technique involves 'growing' the muscle tissue onto the silicon instead of having to dissect it from a muscle taken from a living animal. It is at the same time simple and shrewd as it is the first to include a living component as complex as muscle tissue. Moreover, it avoids the need for dissection or extraction procedures that can be harmful for the biological components.
In addition to functioning as a microrobot, this system can be used as a force transducer to measure the mechanical properties of muscle fibres, bridging the gap between old macroscopic physiology measurements on muscles and recent measurements done on single cells.
Prof. Carlo D. Montemagno
University of California at Los Angeles, California, USA.
Tel: +1 310 794 7270
Additional contact for comment on paper:
Dr. Joachim P. Spatz
Universitat Heidelberg, Germany.
Tel +49 6221 544942
Also available online.
(C) Nature Materials press release.
Message posted by: Trevor M. D'Souza