Cyborg and Bionic Systems: Signposting the FutureRead the full article
The Open Access journal Cyborg and Bionic Systems, published in association with BIT, promotes the knowledge interchange and hybrid system codesign between living beings and robotic systems.
Cyborg and Bionic Systems’ editorial board is led by Toshio Fukuda (Beijing Institute of Technology) and is comprised of experts who have made significant and well recognized contributions to the field.
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Challenges and Possibilities of Cell-Based Tissue-Engineered Vascular Grafts
There is urgent demand for biologically compatible vascular grafts for both adult and pediatric patients. The utility of conventional nonbiodegradable materials is limited because of their thrombogenicity and inability to grow, while autologous vascular grafts involve considerable disadvantages, including the invasive procedures required to obtain these healthy vessels from patients and insufficient availability in patients with systemic atherosclerosis. All of these issues could be overcome by tissue-engineered vascular grafts (TEVGs). A large body of evidence has recently emerged in support of TEVG technologies, introducing diverse cell sources (e.g., somatic cells and stem cells) and novel fabrication methods (e.g., scaffold-guided and self-assembled approaches). Before TEVG can be applied in a clinical setting, however, several aspects of the technology must be improved, such as the feasibility of obtaining cells, their biocompatibility and mechanical properties, and the time needed for fabrication, while the safety of supplemented materials, the patency and nonthrombogenicity of TEVGs, their growth potential, and the long-term influence of implanted TEVGs in the body must be assessed. Although recent advances in TEVG fabrication have yielded promising results, more research is needed to achieve the most feasible methods for generating optimal TEVGs. This article reviews multiple aspects of TEVG fabrication, including mechanical requirements, extracellular matrix components, cell sources, and tissue engineering approaches. The potential of periodic hydrostatic pressurization in the production of scaffold-free TEVGs with optimal elasticity and stiffness is also discussed. In the future, the integration of multiple technologies is expected to enable improved TEVG performance.
Design of Temperature-Responsive Cell Culture Surfaces for Cell Sheet Engineering
Temperature-responsive cell culture surfaces, which modulate cell attachment/detachment characteristics with temperature, have been used to fabricate cell sheets. Extensive study on fabrication of cell sheet with the temperature-responsive cell culture surface, manipulation, and transplantation of the cell sheet has established the interdisciplinary field of cell sheet engineering, in which engineering, biological, and medical fields closely collaborate. Such collaboration has pioneered cell sheet engineering, making it a promising and attractive technology in tissue engineering and regenerative medicine. This review introduces concepts of cell sheet engineering, followed by designs for the fabrication of various types of temperature-responsive cell culture surfaces and technologies for cell sheet manipulation. The development of various methods for the fabrication of temperature-responsive cell culture surfaces was also summarized. The availability of cell sheet engineering for the treatment and regeneration of damaged human tissue has also been described, providing examples of the clinical application of cell sheet transplantation in humans.
Cell-Based Biohybrid Sensor Device for Chemical Source Direction Estimation
This paper describes a method to estimate the direction from which the signal molecule reaches the sensor by using living cells. In this context, biohybrid sensors that utilize a sophisticated sensing system of cells can potentially offer high levels of chemical-detection sensitivity and selectivity. However, biohybrid-sensor-based chemical-source-direction estimation has not received research attention because the cellular response to chemicals has not been examined in the context of directional information. In our approach, we fabricated a device that can limit the interface between the cell-laden hydrogel and the chemical solution of interest to enhance the time difference over which the chemical solution reaches the cells. Chemical detection by cells that express specific receptors is reflected as the fluorescence of the calcium indicator within the cells. Our device has eight chambers that each house 3D cell-laden collagen hydrogels facing circularly outward. The device also works as a cover to prevent chemicals from permeating the hydrogel from above. In our study, by observing the time course of the fluorescence emission of each chamber, we were able to successfully estimate the chemical-source direction within an error range of 7–13°. Our results suggest that a combination of microstructure devices embedded with living cells can be used to exploit cell functionalities to yield chemical-source directional information.
Design of Electrohydrodynamic Devices with Consideration of Electrostatic Energy
The importance of actuators that can be integrated with flexible robot structures and mechanisms has increased in recent years with the advance of soft robotics. In particular, electrohydrodynamic (EHD) actuators, which have expandable integrability to adapt to the flexible motion of soft robots, have received much attention in the field of soft robotics. Studies have deepened the understanding of steady states of EHD phenomena but nonsteady states are not well understood. We herein observe the development process of fluid in a microchannel adopting a Schlieren technique with the aid of a high-speed camera. In addition, we analyze the behavior of fluid flow in a microchannel that is designed to have pairs of parallel plate electrodes adopting a computational fluid dynamics technique. Results indicate the importance of considering flow generated by electrostatic energy, which tends to be ignored in constructing and evaluating EHD devices, and by the body force generated by the ion-drag force. By considering these effects, we estimate the development process of EHD flow and confirm the importance of considering the generation of vortices and their interactions inside the microchannel during the development of EHD devices.
Perspective for Future Medicine: Multidisciplinary Computational Anatomy-Based Medicine with Artificial Intelligence
Multidisciplinary computational anatomy (MCA) is a new frontier of science that provides a mathematical analysis basis for the comprehensive and useful understanding of “dynamic living human anatomy.” It defines a new mathematical modeling method for the early detection and highly intelligent diagnosis and treatment of incurable or intractable diseases. The MCA is a method of scientific research on innovative areas based on the medical images that are integrated with the information related to: (1) the spatial axis, extending from a cell size to an organ size; (2) the time series axis, extending from an embryo to post mortem body; (3) the functional axis on physiology or metabolism which is reflected in a variety of medical image modalities; and (4) the pathological axis, extending from a healthy physical condition to a diseased condition. It aims to integrate multiple prediction models such as multiscale prediction model, temporal prediction model, anatomy function prediction model, and anatomy-pathology prediction model. Artificial intelligence has been introduced to accelerate the calculation of statistic mathematical analysis. The future perspective is expected to promote the development of human resources as well as a new MCA-based scientific interdisciplinary field composed of mathematical statistics, information sciences, computing data science, robotics, and biomedical engineering and clinical applications. The MCA-based medicine might be one of the solutions to overcome the difficulties in the current medicine.
Surgical Robot for Intraluminal Access: An Ex Vivo Feasibility Study
Early-stage gastrointestinal cancer is often treated by endoscopic submucosal dissection (ESD) using a flexible endoscope. Compared with conventional percutaneous surgery, ESD is much less invasive and provides a high quality of life for the patient because it does not require a skin incision, and the organ is preserved. However, the operator must be highly skilled because ESD requires using a flexible endoscope with energy devices, which have limited degrees of freedom. To facilitate easier manipulation of these flexible devices, we developed a surgical robot comprising a flexible endoscope and two articulating instruments. The robotic system is based on a conventional flexible endoscope, and an extrapolated motor unit moves the endoscope in all its degrees of freedom. The instruments are thin enough to allow insertion of two instruments into the endoscope channel, and each instrument has a bending section that allows for up–down, right–left, and forward–backward motion. In this study, we performed an ex vivo feasibility evaluation using the proposed robotic system for ESD in a porcine stomach. The procedure was successfully performed by five novice operators without complications. Our findings demonstrated the feasibility of the proposed robotic system and, furthermore, suggest that even operators with limited experience can use this system to perform ESD.