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CMCC 2433

Three-dimensional synthetic biomaterials as structural and bioactive scaffolds

Inventors: Daniel Kohane, Charles Lieber

Invention Types: Medical Device, Therapeutics

Research Areas: Musculoskeletal

Keywords: Tissue Engineering

For More Information Contact:  Chou, Jennifer


Invention Description:

Researchers at Boston Children's and Harvard aim to mimic the kind of intrinsic feedback loops the body uses to maintain fine control at the cellular and tissue level. For example the autonomic nervous system keeps track of pH, chemistry, oxygen and other factors, and triggers responses as needed.

The autonomic nervous system (ANS) is the unconscious part of our nervous system. The ANS quietly coordinates all of our body's vital functions and adjusts them as necessary. The researchers have created the beginnings of an artificial ANS.

Drs. Kohane and Lieber have been working to design sensors that merge directly with engineered tissues by building 3D bioactive mesh like scaffolds made of nanoscale silicon wires—about 80 nm in diameter—shaped into flat planes or balls.

The wires are close in size to parts of the extracellular matrix, helping regulate their function. The networks are porous, allowing researchers to seed them with heart, nerve and smooth-muscle cells and allow those cells to grow three-dimensionally around the networks.

Once the wires are incorporated into tissues, researchers are able to measure electrical activity in the heart and nerve tissues, and track changes in response to heart and nerve-stimulating drugs. They can also detect changes in the acidity of fluids passing through an engineered, sensor-laden blood vessel.


• Bioengineered blood vessels that sense glucose levels and activate an implanted insulin pump.

• Nanoscale pacemakers coupled to nanoscale defibrillators within artificial heart tissue.

• "Lab-on-a-chip" systems that could use engineered tissues to measure cellular reactions to potential new drugs.

• Vessels and tissues that can detect changes in pH and/or electrical activity suggestive of ischemia or other problems.

Competitive Advantages:

• Current coupling of electronics and tissues have focused on flexible, stretchable planar arrays that conform to tissue surfaces, or implantable microfabricated probes. These approaches have been limited in merging electronics with tissues while minimizing tissue disruption, because the support structures and electronic detectors are larger scale than the extracellular matrix and the cells.

• Planar arrays only probe near the tissue surface and cannot be used to study the internal 3-dimensional structure of the tissue.

• Accordingly, there is room in the market for improvements in merging electronics with tissues.

Business Opportunity:

Sponsored research or license for development of the therapeutic.

Key Publications: Tian B, Liu J, Dvir T, Jin L, Tsui JH, Qing Q, Suo Z, Langer R, Kohane DS, Lieber CM. Macroporous nanowire nanoelectronic scaffolds for synthetic tissues. Nat Mater. 2012 Nov;11(11):986-94. doi: 10.1038/nmat3404. Epub 2012 Aug 26. PubMed PMID: 22922448.

IPStatus: Pat. Pend.