Synthetic cells, including neurons, are becoming far more advanced. In new research by scientists at Stanford University, an artificial nerve was created that has a sensor function that can identify pressure. When those sensors are activated, it increases the voltage shared by two electrodes, which causes a second device called a ring oscillator to spring into action. Voltage changes then get converted into a series of electrical pulses, feeding into a transistor that acts like a synapse. Strings of electricity are sent out, mimicking the physiological actions of neurons.
“It’s a pretty nice advance,” Robert Shepherd, an organic electronics expert at Cornell University, told Science. The organic materials that are used to compose the artificial nerve are soft and flexible, making them ideal for integration into pliable human tissue. They’re also relatively inexpensive to manufacture in large numbers, Shepherd added. This work could be a major step forward in therapeutics.