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Breakthrough in Multi-channel Flexible Bio-electronic Devices

 Research

 

The perfect fusion of electronic sensors and human organs to achieve high-throughput measurements of biological molecules in the body would seem to be a technology for future generations. However, the development of flexible electronic technology has made this technology a reality today. Recently, Professor Huang Xian, from the Department of Biomedical and Scientific Instruments, School of Precision Instrument and Optoelectronics Engineering, Tianjin University, has made a breakthrough in the research of multi-channel flexible bioelectronic devices, which can be applied for high-efficiency biological integration. The related research results have been published in Advanced Materials, an international authoritative academic journal in the field of materials research (impact factor 19.791) and selected by the current issue (Volume 30, Issue 23) as the back cover page for key recommendations. The article’s title is Materials and Techniques for Implantable Nutrient Sensing Using Flexible Sensors Integrated with Metal Organic Framework. The website of the paper is as follow: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/adma.201800917. The first author of this paper is Ling Wei, a postgraduate student in the Laboratory of Flexible Bioelectronics and High-throughput Testing Technology, Tianjin University. Professors Xu Hang and Huang Xian are the co-authors of this paper.

Implantable flexible sensors can reveal various biological processes and assist disease diagnosis and treatment by measuring various parameters of human body and organs in real time. Flexible electronic devices do little harm to human tissues and can adapt to the surface morphology and complex internal tissue structures.

Therefore, the flexible sensors have higher accuracy, stability and repeatability in measurement than traditional rigid sensors.

At present, the fabrication process of implantable flexible sensors is complex, and most of the sensors are used for physical measurement. The chemical sensing capability in terms of resolution, speci?city, and reliability of ?exible sensors may not necessarily out-weigh electronic devices based on rigid composition materials. The chemical measurement function of flexible bioelectronic devices can be improved by using functional materials with excellent chemical properties and controllable specific properties. Therefore, it is of great significance to develop new and controllable electrode modification materials for target recognition.

Considering that flexible electronic devices are unable to reveal the global transmission and distribution of substances and signals in various organs and tissues on the systematic scale as they lack the synchronous measurement ability for high-throughput, multi-channels, multi-parameters, multi-organs and multi-sites, they have limitations in measuring complex and widely distributed components such as proteins and neurotransmitters. To solve these problems, Huang Xian proposed the concept of high-throughput flexible bioelectronic devices, using multi-channel distributed flexible sensors to synchronously measure physiological parameters of different tissues. The surface of the sensor is improved with materials of metal-organic frameworks (MOFs) with a high specific surface area and electrochemical catalytic ability. The combination of rigid MOFs and flexible electronic devices is realized for the first time.

In this study, the team successfully fabricated flexible MOFs functional films by nanocrystallizing rigid and brittle MOFs materials. The flexible sensor obtains the porous, large specific surface area and adjustable chemical properties of MOFs, which makes the flexible implantable sensor exhibit good recognition ability and multi-channel recognition of ascorbic acid, L-tryptophan and glucose. The biosensor also has good biocompatibility. In vivo mice experiments, it can effectively monitor the distribution of the above nutrients in mouse organs, help to judge the whole health status of mice, and provide a basis for monitoring human nutritional and health status in the future.

This research not only broadens the selection range of electrode materials for flexible implantable sensors, but also improves the current understanding of sensor performance from the molecular level by introducing MOFs materials with controllable structure, and make it possible for designing sensors with target recognition from the molecular level. The results of this study greatly improve the performance of flexible sensors. The flexible electronic devices with high throughput, multi-site and high stability can be developed to measure the distribution of biological molecules in different tissues by combining the ability of flexible electronic deformability to adapt to measuring environment and locations and the chemical and physical properties of MOFs materials, thus revealing the life process, disease development and diagnosis mechanism. This is of great scientific significance and potential application value.

Dr. Huang Xian is a professor and doctoral supervisor of the Biomedical and Scientific Instruments Department of Tianjin University. He received a Ph.D. in mechanical engineering from Columbia University in 2011, worked as a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Illinois from 2011 to 2014, and served as an assistant professor at the University of Missouri from 2014 to 2016. In 2015, he was selected into the Youth Project of the 1000 People Program of the Organization Department of the Central Committee of the CPC, and was awarded the title of Peiyang Scholar of Tianjin University and the 1000 Young People of Tianjin Youth Project. His main research is about biomedical detection technology based on flexible electronics. He has been engaged in the design, materials, processing and testing of flexible extensible electronic systems for a long time. He has had sixty papers published at the top international conferences of leading academic journals in this field, including Science, Nature Communication and Advanced Materials. His papers have been cited more than 3000 times.

Translated by Dai Ling

Editors: Yin Wei & Doris Harrington