“Smart Cells”, living cells with electronic functionalities, will add entirely new capabilities to the field of bioelectronics and could potentially revolutionize bio-medical research. This project represents a synergy between forefront bio-materials research and the rapidly developing field of organic electronics. Precisely, we will attach organic electronic devices onto living cells in order to probe their environments in living organisms. A multitude of applications is envisioned, such as recording interaction events of the cell with surrounding proteins, delivering drugs to specific locations inside a body or targeting cancer cells with remotely controlled “killer devices”. The cell functions either as a transport medium to introduce the organic electronic device into specific environments inside the organism, or actively interacts with the device through chemical or electronic/ionic communication pathways. The electronic device triggers a cell function upon receiving an external stimulus, for example in the form of electromagnetic radiation.
The technique relies on a method recently developed by the Rubner group at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (USA), where the fellow will spend the outgoing phase of this project. They demonstrated the attachment of functional polymer backpacks onto living cells, without modifying the cell’s natural behaviour. The fellow will combine this technique with his strong background in the fabrication and physics of organic electronic devices, to design suitable electronic device backpacks for living cells. The technique will then be transferred to the European host, the Malliaras group in France, a key player in the field of organic bioelectronics. As a result of this work the fellow will develop a comprehensive understanding of bioelectronics and immensely benefit from exposure to scientific perspectives in bio-materials research. The project will uniquely qualify him for his desired career in bioelectronic research.
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