The nervous system is the major controlling and regulatory system in the body. Technological advances in devices that can mimic the neuro-biological architectures present in the nervous system require integration with biological systems. Traditional, silicon-based devices have limited potential for bio-integration. Their rigid structures tend to have poor biocompatibility, and their low energy efficiency results in power requirements that can be difficult to meet.
Scientists now have demonstrated the integration of artificial neurons with a living organism. Researchers from Linköping University along with a group of scientists in Lund and Gothenburg have demonstrated the bio-integration of organic electrochemical neurons (OECNs) with a biological system.
The OECNs are printable organic semiconductors that can mimic the function of neurons. They are soft and flexible, making them more compatible with living tissues. Their response to multiple stimuli and operating ability at low voltage (less than or equal to 0.6 V) offers new horizons into the world of integrating artificial neuronal systems with biological systems. The printable organic semiconductors are capable of conducting electrons and ions. Therefore, they can mimic the nerve conduction mechanism of plants and humans.
The researchers used Venus flytrap plants to demonstrate the integration of artificial organic neurons and synapses with a biological system. The electric signal from the artificial neurons caused the plant leaves to close without any fly entering the trap.
This research could open up a whole new avenue of exploration for brain-machine interface (BMI) applications, creating artificial nerves to conduct signals between the body and sensors or other digital devices.