Grow your own smart organs!

By Casey Frye, CCNN Writer

artificial skin
Stanford researchers have invented a device that can “feel” like human skin does. Their goal is to use this device to give touch back to soldiers and burn victims.

If you’re someone who prefers to put off doctor visits for as long as possible, it may be harder to know if your body’s at risk for certain diseases. Well, what if there was no need for a doctor? What if the organs inside our very bodies could warn us themselves? I know it sounds futuristic, but researchers from MIT say it’s totally possible to build “smart organs” that’ll do just that!

MIT plans to do this with tissue engineering, the process of crafting organs, bones, skin, or other kinds of tissue by combining plastics, living cells, and high-tech materials. In fact, different structures like livers and eyeball parts are already being tested.

Robert Langer, an MIT professor who runs one of the world’s largest bioengineering labs, believes it would be simple to make the organs “smart.”

Instead of only adding cells, Langer wants to line the organs with sensors that’ll keep track of your health.

For example, a person can place nanowires (tiny wires) into their hearts to monitor oxygen levels and send information to a computer wirelessly. If something goes wrong, the wires will be able to detect the problem and warn someone of a possible heart attack before it happens! “It’s the kind of thing that can transform society,” he says. “You can’t have a drug that will grow a new liver or a new heart, so this could be huge.”

There are a lot of tough obstacles to overcome, of course, but Langer is hard at work in his lab making the impossible… possible.

Featured image courtesy MIT