"All flesh is not the same flesh, but there is one flesh of men." -- Paul the Apostle, 1 Corinthians 15:39, New American Standard Bible
When Paul the Apostle wrote those words in his First Epistle to the Corinthians, he probably wasn't banking on the fact that one day, there would be another "flesh of men."
It's got all the trappings of what Saint Paul was made of—muscle, blood vessels, neurons and heart cells—but the first example of "cyborg tissue," courtesy of the forward-thinking bioengineers at Harvard University, is engineered human tissue interwoven by transistors and biocompatible nanoscale wires.
"These cyborg tissues are half living cells, half electronics," reports Sebastian Anthony on Extremetech.com.
"As far as the cells are concerned, they're just normal cells that behave normally—but the electronic side actually acts as a sensor network, allowing a computer to interface directly with the cells," Anthony writes. "Suffice it to say, if you can use a digital computer to read and write data to your body's cells, there are some awesome applications. If you need a quick jolt of adrenaline, you would simply tap a button on your smartphone, which is directly connected to your sympathetic nervous system…When we eventually put nanobots into our bloodstream, small pulses of electricity emitted by the cells could be used as guidance to damaged areas. In the case of blood vessels and other organs, the nanoelectric sensor network could detect if there's inflammation, blockage, or tumors."
"The current methods we have for monitoring or interacting with living systems are limited,” said Charles M. Lieber, the Mark Hyman Jr. Professor of Chemistry at Harvard, the research team leader. "We can use electrodes to measure activity in cells or tissue, but that damages them. With this technology, for the first time, we can work at the same scale as the unit of biological system without interrupting it. Ultimately, this is about merging tissue with electronics in a way that it becomes difficult to determine where the tissue ends and the electronics begin."
The late, great American satirist H. L. Mencken, who suffered a stroke in 1948 that left him conscious and aware but barely able to read, write or speak, once opined, "Man is a beautiful machine that works very badly." With such cutting-edge developments as cyborg tissue, that beautiful machine will likely be working much better.
image: cyborg tissue created by Harvard University researchers