After many years of blogging, and consistent with my desire to move toward retirement, we have ended the Insights blog. Thanks to Doug Bedell for his years of blog support.

Machines Becoming Minute Cell Matter

Posted on June 10, 2010
Filed Under Technology | Leave a Comment

Practical uses are still years away, but we’re pleased to note that researchers have found a way to link technology with human cells very closely.

A nano-sized transistor is embedded in a cell-like membrane – “the most intimate binding of man and machine yet achieved.”

“This device is as close to the seamless marriage of biological and electronic structures as anything else that people did before,” says Aleksandr Noy, a scientist at the University of California. The device is an implanted circuit,  beginning with a simple transistor. But instead of using silicon, the most common material in transistors, the researchers “used a next generation material known as a carbon nanotube, a tiny straw-shaped material made from a single curved layer of carbon atoms arranged like the panels of a soccer ball.

“The scientists then coated the carbon nanotube transistor with a lipid bilayer, basically a double wall of oil molecules that cells use to separate their insides from their environment.” They did’t use an actual cell membrane, however…

There’s more on the technique in the online article in Discovery News. The bottom line is it may one day be possible to gather information “about the inner workings of disease-related proteins inside the cell membrane, and eventually lead to new ways to read, and even  influence, brain or nerve cells.”

This kind of research holds promise for people  with bodily ailments, though “any actual treatment is still years away.” Wouldn’t it be great if something like this could be used to restart, say, damaged spinal cells and restore motion in inert muscles?

Whatever eventually results from work like this, the point is that technical ingenuity is being combined in the most intimate way imanginable with building-block bodily structures. Mind and matter are on their way, in given applications at least, to becoming one. – Doug Bedell

– The illustration is an artist’s representation of a new transistor that’s contained within a cell-like membrane. In the core of the device is a silicon nanowire (grey), covered with a lipid bilayer (blue).


Leave a Comment

If you would like to make a comment, please fill out the form below.

Name (required)

Email (required)



Email Subscribe