'Cyborg skin' with embedded electronics has been built in a Harvard lab for the first time.
The breakthrough marks the first test were functional electrical nanowires have been successfully placed inside lab-grown flesh.
The embedded wires make it easier to measure activity inside the skin, because usually tissue is damaged by electrical probes.
If the wires are 'grown into' the skin then the risk of damaging tissue is much less acute.
"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," said Charles Lieber, professor of chemistry at Harvard.
Described in the journal Nature Materials, the new technique is similar to that which is used to make microchips.
"Beginning with a two-dimensional substrate, researchers laid out a mesh of organic polymer around nanoscale wires, which serve as the critical sensing elements.
Nanoscale electrodes, which connect the nanowire elements, were then built within the mesh to enable nanowire transistors to measure the activity in cells without damaging them.
Once completed, the substrate was dissolved, leaving researchers with a netlike sponge, or a mesh, that can be folded or rolled into a host of three-dimensional shapes."
According to the research team, the technique will first be used in the pharmaceutical industry to better study how drugs interact with tissues in three dimensions.
Theoretically the tech could one day be placed inside a live person, in order to study and manage drug treatment without damaging existing tissue.