Call it the final frontier: the semiconductor industry has finally figured out how to embed silicon chips inside living cells.
The continuing miniaturization of the fabrication process -- we're now at 22 nanometers -- has allowed Spanish researchers to begin integrating nanoelectronic components with living cells, according to a Nanowerk report.
Until now, scientists have only been able to embed living cells in nanoelectronics. Now technology is small enough to perform the reverse.
The research team from the micro and nanosystems department of the Instituto de Microelectrónica de Barcelona, or IMB-CNM, used several different techniques to embed the chips inside cells, including lipofection, phagocytosis and microinjection.
The team fabricated different batches of polysilicon chips, chose the most suitable type and integrated them with Dictyostelium discoideum -- a type of amoeba -- and human HeLa cells, popular for scientific research.
After inserting the chips into the live cells, the researchers found that more than 90 percent of the chip-containing containing HeLa cell population remained viable seven days after lipofection.
The development has significant implications for biomedicine -- primarily in that it can help scientists better understand the machinations of individual cells.
Human cells typically measure 10 square micrometers. At our current rate of miniaturization, scientists could fit about 2,500 transistors inside a single human cell by 2020.
So what could intracellular chips be used for? The team suggests using them for early detection of disease, or new cellular repair mechanisms and monitoring systems.
This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com