Bioelectronics in Tissue Engineering and Disease Modeling
Join us for a talk led by Prof Brian Timko, an assistant professor in the Department of Biomedical Engineering at Tufts University. This talk is sponsored by the SCI London Group!
Hybrid bioelectronic systems offer a unique route toward achieving two-way electronic communication with living cells and tissues. Recent advances in bioelectronics and bioactive materials have enabled multiplexed, stable and seamless interfaces with surrounding cells and tissues, representing a distinct advantage over conventional systems such as patch clamp and optical dyes. We will first present an overview of our recent heart-on-a-chip platform which integrated both extra- and intracellular devices for monitoring cardiac electrophysiology during episodes of acute hypoxia. This system allowed us to monitor not only cell-cell communication (e.g., wavefront propagation) but also action potentials at several spatially-distinct regions simultaneously. Our platform provided a unique route toward understanding the role of hypoxia on ion channel dynamics. For example, we found that APs narrowed during hypoxia, consistent with proposed mechanisms by which oxygen deficits activate ATP-dependent K+ channels that promote membrane repolarization. We will next discuss routes toward extending our bioelectronic platform to 3D, enabling new classes of hybrid, devices-embedded tissues. We developed a Photo-crosslinkable Silk Fibroin (PSF) derivative which was compatible with conventional photolithography processes and enabled flexible scaffolds with well-defined geometries and cm-scale uniformity. Our freestanding PSF-based scaffolds supported bioelectronic devices, provided excellent electrical passivation, and adhered both cardiac and neuron model cells, opening new avenues toward engineered brain hybrids. We will also present recent work to develop electromagnetic stimulation elements for spatially-selective cellular activation. Taken together, these research directions open new avenues for engineered, bioelectronics-innervated cardiac and brain systems. We will discuss prospects for merging our bioelectronic devices with state-of-the-art tissue engineering techniques.