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In vitro electrophysiology using microelectrode arrays (MEAs) plays an important role in understanding fundamental biologic processes, screening potential drugs and assessing the toxicity of chemicals. Low electrode impedance and ability to sustain viable cultures are the key technology requirements. We show that MEAs consisting of poly(3,4-ethylenedioxythiophene) doped with poly(styrene sulfonate) (PEDOT:PSS) and coated with poly-L-lysine satisfy these requirements. Hippocampal cell cultures, maintained for 3–6 weeks on these MEAs, give high quality recordings of neural activity. This enables the observation of drug-induced activity changes, which paves the way for using these devices in in vitro drug screening and toxicology applications.
Screen-printed organic electrochemical transistors (OECTs) were tested as glucose and lactate sensors. The intrinsic amplification of the device allowed it to detect metabolites in low molecular range and validation tests were made on real human sweat. The development of an organically modified sol–gel solid electrolyte paves the way for all printed OECT-based biosensors.
In biological applications, conjugated polymers offer many advantages compared to inorganic semiconductors, due to their favorable electrical properties and their biocompatibility. Many different parameters affect the cell-substrate interaction and in this work we focus our attention on the role played by the oxidation state and surface morphology of conducting polymer substrates. We realized cell culture substrates using a thin film of a biocompatible conducting polymer widely employed in organic electronics, poly(3,4-ethylene dioxythiophene) doped with poly(styrenesulfonate) (PEDOT:PSS). The oxidation state of the samples was electrochemically modified through the application of a fixed potential, and they were subsequently characterized by atomic force microscopy and optical spectroscopy. Using these techniques we have been able to measure the oxidation state of the polymer films, and to asses that its surface roughness does not depend on its oxidation state. Furthermore, human dermal fibroblast (hDF) were grown on PEDOT:PSS films with different oxidation state, in order to test their efficacy as cell culture substrates and their biocompatibility.
The emergence of organic electronics represents one of the most dramatic technological developments of the past two decades. Perhaps the most important frontier of this field involves the interface with biology. The “soft” nature of organics offers better mechanical compatibility with tissue than traditional electronic materials, while their natural compatibility with mechanically flexible substrates suits the nonplanar form factors often required for implants. More importantly, the ability of organics to conduct ions in addition to electrons and holes opens up a new communication channel with biology. In this article, we consider a few examples that illustrate the coupling between organic electronics and biology and highlight new directions of research.
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