Menu

Artificial Skin Communicates with Neurons

A new flexible sensor can detect touch and generate electrical pulses that signal intensity of pressure to mouse neurons in vitro.

Oct 19, 2015
Jef Akst

Model robotic hand with artificial mechanoreceptorsBAO RESEARCH GROUP, STANFORD UNIVERSITYResearchers have developed a new type of artificial skin that could pave the way for responsive prosthetics. The flexible, carbon nanotube–laced polymer detects pressure and translates the sensation into pulses of electricity that can be interpreted by the mammalian nervous system, according to the in vitro mouse study published last week (October 15) in Science.

“Previously, with plastic material, we and others in the field have been able to make sensitive touch sensors, but the electrical signal that comes out from the sensor is not the right format for the brain to be able to interpret it,” study coauthor Zhenan Bao, a chemical engineer at Stanford University, told BBC News. “Our sensor is now coupled with a printed, simple electronic circuit. That circuit allows our sensor to generate electrical pulses that can communicate with the brain. We see this as the first step towards using plastic materials for artificial skin on prosthetic limbs.”

Bao and her colleagues demonstrated that the sensors could relay pressure signals to the mammalian nervous system by linking them to a blue LED light that in turn stimulated slices of mouse brain that had been engineered to respond to those wavelengths. When the researchers measured the responses of individual neurons within the brain slice, they found that it correlated perfectly with the pulses produced by the artificial skinlike material—up to 200 beats per second.

The work represents “an important advance in the development of skinlike materials that mimic the functionality of human skin at an unprecedented level,” Ali Javey, who is developing electronic skin at the University of California, Berkeley, told Chemical & Engineering News. “It could have important implications for the development of smarter prosthetics.”

Even before that, Bao told the BBC, the sensors could serve as the basis of wearable technology. “They are very thin and flexible, and are also stretchy. So you could mount a sensor on your skin and use it to detect vital signs like heartbeat and blood pressure.”

January 2019

Cannabis on Board

Research suggests ill effects of cannabinoids in the womb

Marketplace

Sponsored Product Updates

WIN a VIAFLO 96/384 to supercharge your microplate pipetting!
WIN a VIAFLO 96/384 to supercharge your microplate pipetting!
INTEGRA Biosciences is offering labs the chance to win a VIAFLO 96/384 pipette. Designed to simplify plate replication, plate reformatting or reservoir-to-plate transfers, the VIAFLO 96/384 allows labs without the space or budget for an expensive pipetting robot to increase the speed and throughput of routine tasks.
FORMULATRIX® digital PCR technology to be acquired by QIAGEN
FORMULATRIX® digital PCR technology to be acquired by QIAGEN
FORMULATRIX has announced that their digital PCR assets, including the CONSTELLATION® series of instruments, is being acquired by QIAGEN N.V. (NYSE: QGEN, Frankfurt Stock Exchange: QIA) for up to $260 million ($125 million upfront payment and $135 million of milestones).  QIAGEN has announced plans for a global launch in 2020 of a new series of digital PCR platforms that utilize the advanced dPCR technology developed by FORMULATRIX combined with QIAGEN’s expertise in assay development and automation.
Application of CRISPR/Cas to the Generation of Genetically Engineered Mice
Application of CRISPR/Cas to the Generation of Genetically Engineered Mice
With this application note from Taconic, learn about the power that the CRISPR/Cas system has to revolutionize the field of custom mouse model generation!
Translational Models of Obesity, Dysmetabolism, Diabetes, and Complications
Translational Models of Obesity, Dysmetabolism, Diabetes, and Complications
This webinar, from Crown Bioscience, presents a unique continuum of translational dysmetabolic platforms that more closely mimic human disease. Learn about using next-generation rodent and spontaneously diabetic non-human primate models to accurately model human-relevant disease progression and complications related to obesity and diabetes here!