by Gloria Alvarez...
Is it a living thing, or is it an inaminate
machine? The new "Bionic Chip" that's been developed by researchers
at UC Berkley is indeed a living cell. But it's also a microchip.
How can that be, and how
is it going to make your life better?
Scientists have known for years that cells can pass an electrical current.
Now they've developed a way to control the current and use the cell as
an integral part of new microdevices, without destroying the cell or its
It took three years of work using silicon microfabrication technology.
It's transparent, and tiny, only about 20 microns or about a hundreth of
an inch across. Using a microscope the researchers make the miniscule
"We've brought engineering essentially into the field of biology," said
Boris Rubinski a professor
of mechanical engineering at the University of California, Berkley.
Using this exciting new technique doctors in the near future will be able
to introduce DNA, administer medicines, extract proteins and more, all
without disturbing the other cells that are nearby.
Envision elaborate bionic circuitry to control body implants that will
treat everything from gentic diseases to brain conditions. The hope
is eventually, researchers will be able to develop specialized bionic chips
for the various tissue types in the body, as diverse as muscle and bone.
UC Berkley funded the research and has applied for a patent on the technology.
It's their hope to develop it commercially. If they're successful,
this is just the beginning of an exciting new medical/technological discipline.