Nanoprobes – the Future of Human-Machine Interfaces

Machine enhanced humans — or cyborgs as they are known in science fiction — could be one step closer to becoming a reality, thanks to new research Lieber Group at Harvard University, as well as scientists from University of Surrey and Yonsei University. The ability to read electrical activities from cells is the foundation of many biomedical procedures, such as brain activity mapping and neural prosthetics. Developing new tools for intracellular electrophysiology (the electric current running within cells) that push the limits of what is physically possible (spatiotemporal resolution) while reducing invasiveness could provide a deeper understanding of electrogenic cells and their networks in tissues, as well as new directions for human-machine interfaces.

Credit: Yunlong Zhao

Dr Yunlong Zhao from the ATI at the University of Surrey said: “If our medical professionals are to continue to understand our physical condition better and help us live longer, it is important that we continue to push the boundaries of modern science in order to give them the best possible tools to do their jobs. For this to be possible, an intersection between humans and machines is inevitable. “Our ultra-small, flexible, nanowire probes could be a very powerful tool as they can measure intracellular signals with amplitudes comparable with those measured with patch clamp techniques; with the advantage of the device being scalable, it causes less discomfort and no fatal damage to the cell (cytosol dilation). Through this work, we found clear evidence for how both size and curvature affect device internalisation and intracellular recording signal.”

Source (University of Surrey. “Ultra-small nanoprobes could be a leap forward in high-resolution human-machine interfaces.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 3 July 2019.)

Original paper: Zhao, Y., You, S.S., Zhang, A., Lee, J.H., Huang, J. and Lieber, C.M., 2019. Scalable ultrasmall three-dimensional nanowire transistor probes for intracellular recording. Nature nanotechnology14(8), pp.783-790.