Nanoelectronic sensor simultaneously measures electrical and mechanical activity of heart cells

Using a suspended nanowire, a University of Massachusetts research team has, for the first time, created a tiny sensor capable of simultaneously measuring electrical and mechanical cellular responses in heart tissue, promising work for heart disease studies, drug testing and regenerative medicine.

PhD in Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE). student Hongyan Gao, first author of the article published online by the journal Scientists progressdescribes the invention as “a new tool for improved cardiac studies that has the potential for cutting-edge applications in heart disease experiments”.

Because the cell is a basic functional element in biology, its mechanical and electrical behaviors are two key properties that indicate the state of the cell and are therefore important for monitoring health, diagnosing disease, and repairing damage. fabrics.

“Comprehensive assessment of cell state requires simultaneous knowledge of mechanical and electrical properties,” says research team leader Jun Yao, ECE assistant professor and adjunct in biomedical engineering. These two properties are generally measured by different sensors, and the degree of disruption of cell operation increases with the number of sensors used.

The sensor is constructed from a 3D suspended semiconductor silicon nanowire. With its size much smaller than a single cell, the nanowire can stick tightly to the cell membrane and “listen” to cell activities very closely. It also has unique properties to convert “heard” bioelectrical and biomechanical activities into electrical sensing signals for sensing.

The research achieves goals proposed in a five-year, $500,000 grant from the National Science Foundation’s Early Career Development Program (CAREER) that Yao received in 2019.

“In addition to developing integrated biochips, our next step is to embed the nanosensors on freestanding scaffolds to innervate tissues in vitro for deep tissue studies,” Yao said. “In the long term, we hope that nanosensors can be safely delivered to living heart systems for better health monitoring and early diagnosis of disease.”

The concept of merging multiple sensing functions into a single device will also expand the capabilities of general bio-interface engineering, Yao said.

Yubing Sun and Xian Du, assistant professors of mechanical and industrial engineering, also contributed to the work. Yao, Sun, and Du are all affiliated with UMass Amherst’s Institute for Applied Life Sciences, which combines deep, interdisciplinary expertise from 29 on-campus departments to translate fundamental research into innovations that benefit humanity. .

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Material provided by University of Massachusetts at Amherst. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

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