Cyberplasm: Living Nano-robots

Printer-friendly versionPDF version

With the rapid advancement of technology in society, integration of micro-robotics into the field of medicine and health may be available within as little as five years[1]. Inspired by the undulating movement and simplistic nervous system of the sea lamprey, cyberplasm will potentially be able to target diseases within the body and be used in advanced prosthetics, allowing artificial muscle tissue to expand and contract in response to stimuli. Cyberplasm operates by using mammalian sensory neurons to register light, sound, and chemical signals from the environment. Environmental stimulus captured by the neurons is then processed by an electronic nervous system and converted into electrical signals. The electrical signals produced by the nervous system generate movement in the artificial muscles, propelling them towards the source of the stimulus to collect samples or administer medicine. The system is independently powered by a microbial fuel cell to decrease the risk of cathode contamination [2].

The largest technical obstacle to commercialization of this technology is the integration of living sensory neurons into the electronic nervous system. Interface scaffolding aims to provide a support network for the neurons, with a conductive surface that can relay signals to the electronic nervous system. To create the scaffolding, UV light is projected onto a wafer coated with silicon-based organic polymer that forms a porous membrane when subjected to the UV light, a process known as projection microstereolithography. When combined with carbon nanotubes, the interface scaffolding is both conductive and allows for the neurons to grow through the membrane [3]. This design breakthrough should enable the continued development of cyberplasm and further its integration into the medical field. 

References

  1. Citekey 565[/<span>bib]</span>. <u>Cyberplasm</u> is a micro-scale and potentially nano-scale biomimetic (technology inspired by nature) robot that utilizes microelectronics to combine mammalian sensory neurons with an electronic nervous system[bib]566 not found
  2. Frankel D. Sandpit: Cyberplasm. [Internet]. 2009 . Available from: http://gow.epsrc.ac.uk/NGBOViewGrant.aspx?GrantRef=EP/H019081/1
  3. Szondy D4. Interface Scaffolds" Could Wire Prosthetics Directly into Amputees' Nervous Systems." . [Internet]. 2012 . Available from: http://www.gizmag.com/nerve-prostheses-interface-scaffolds/21646/

Author: 

Development Stage: 

Key Words: 

Mechanism: 

Summary: 

Cyberplasm is a nano-robot that utilizes microelectronics and biomimicry to detect light, sound, or chemical signals from the environment and process these signals through an electronic nervous system to generate movement towards the stimuli. This technology can be used to target diseases within the body or to develop advanced prosthesis by integrating artificial tissue and the nervous system. Interface scaffolding overcomes one of the most significant challenges to the cyberplasm’s design by providing a porous membrane through which the neurons can grow. The use of carbon nanotubes makes the scaffolding conductive, and therefore allows it to transmit electronic impulses from tissues to the electronic nervous system[1] [2]

References

  1. Ayers J. Biomimetic Underwater Robot Program. [Internet]. 2010 . Available from: http://www.neurotechnology.neu.edu/
  2. Szondy D4. Interface Scaffolds" Could Wire Prosthetics Directly into Amputees' Nervous Systems." . [Internet]. 2012 . Available from: http://www.gizmag.com/nerve-prostheses-interface-scaffolds/21646/

Function: 

Material: 

Benefit Summary: 

In the cyberplasm, a select number of sensor and actuator genes in the neurons are artificially expressed using chemicals to turn on and off DNA transcription. The high sensitivity of the neurons allows them to be stimulated only by a single chemical signal, ideally one specific to a virus, pathogen, or cancer, which decreases the risk of accidentally targeting a beneficial cell. Additionally, the carbon nanotubes used in the interface scaffolding are significantly more conductive than other materials due to the surface charge of nanoparticles, which attract a thin layer of ions of opposite charge in addition to the charge of the nanoparticles. The increased and controlled conductivity offered by the carbon nanotubes thus allows the interface to process the thousands of nerve impulses produced per second without damaging the nervous system. 

Benefit: 

Risk Summary: 

As microchips decrease in size, so does the proximity between components of a circuit. As a result, there is an increase in unwanted capacitance (ability to store electric charge). This additional charge can cause increased heating and signal disturbance, leaving the system inoperable. Damage to the cyberplasm from unwanted capacitance while in use presents unexplored risk to patients[1]

References

  1. Citekey <span style="font-family: 'Trebuchet MS', 'Helvetica Neue', Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 21px; background-color: rgb(245, 245, 245);">585 not found

Risk Characterization: 

Risk Assessment: 

Facility: 

Activity: 

Challenge Area: