“Our work will make possible continuous, nondestructive, real-time monitoring and manipulation of cellular bioelectric activities, paving the way for new understanding of cellular and intracellular processes.”
The Department of Defense has recently awarded Cyclone Engineers Reza Montazami and Nicole Hashemi a project exploring a novel approach to investigate cells’ bioelectric activities.
Deeper understanding of how cells use bioelectric fields to communicate and interact with each other and their environment may shed new light on downstream biological dynamics, but overcoming the differences between the “languages” of ionic biological systems and the electronic devices used to study them is an immense challenge.
“To translate between systems, our team will develop a first-of-its-kind bio-ion-triggered gating mechanism so cells can interact with the electronic equipment by switching the bio-ionic transistor on and off. The electronics can then ‘talk back’ by polarizing the bioenvironment, causing the cells’ electronic machinery to respond,” said Hashemi, associate professor of mechanical engineering.
The new transistor will be the first bidirectional ionic-electronic signal transducer, capable of not just sensing cells’ activity, but also sending back messages to see how cells respond.
“Our work will make possible continuous, nondestructive, real-time monitoring and manipulation of cellular bioelectric activities, paving the way for new understanding of cellular and intracellular processes,” said Montazami, associate professor of mechanical engineering.
Hashemi is also a member of the Center for Multiphase Flow Research and Education leadership team.
“In this project and in many other efforts, CoMFRE has provided opportunities and a supportive environment for collaboration across research teams,” said Hashemi.
The project is funded by the DOD Army Research Office, a directorate of the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command Army Research Laboratory.