Novel injectable biomaterial could eventually control neurons and manipulate behavior of organs and muscles

07/02/2016 - 15:01

Carla Reiter

In the campy 1966 science fiction movie “Fantastic Voyage,” scientists miniaturize a submarine with themselves inside and travel through the body of a colleague to break up a potentially fatal blood clot. Micro-humans aside, imagine the inflammation that metal sub would cause.

Ideally, injectable or implantable medical devices should not only be small and electrically functional, they should be soft, like the body tissues with which they interact.


Ref: Heterogeneous silicon mesostructures for lipid-supported bioelectric interfaces. Nature Materials (19 May 2016) | DOI: 10.1038/nmat4673


Silicon-based materials have widespread application as biophysical tools and biomedical devices. Here we introduce a biocompatible and degradable mesostructured form of silicon with multi-scale structural and chemical heterogeneities. The material was synthesized using mesoporous silica as a template through a chemical vapour deposition process. It has an amorphous atomic structure, an ordered nanowire-based framework and random submicrometre voids, and shows an average Young’s modulus that is 2–3 orders of magnitude smaller than that of single-crystalline silicon. In addition, we used the heterogeneous silicon mesostructures to design a lipid-bilayer-supported bioelectric interface that is remotely controlled and temporally transient, and that permits non-genetic and subcellular optical modulation of the electrophysiology dynamics in single dorsal root ganglia neurons. Our findings suggest that the biomimetic expansion of silicon into heterogeneous and deformable forms can open up opportunities in extracellular biomaterial or bioelectric systems.