Dynamic-template-directed multiscale assembly for large-area coating of highly-aligned conjugated polymer thin films

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Solution processable semiconducting polymers have been under intense investigations due to their diverse applications from printed electronics to biomedical devices. However, controlling the macromolecular assembly across length scales during solution coating remains a key challenge, largely due to the disparity in timescales of polymer assembly and high-throughput printing/coating. Herein we propose the concept of dynamic templating to expedite polymer nucleation and the ensuing assembly process, inspired by biomineralization templates capable of surface reconfiguration. Molecular dynamic simulations reveal that surface reconfigurability is key to promoting template–polymer interactions, thereby lowering polymer nucleation barrier. Employing ionic-liquid-based dynamic template during meniscus-guided coating results in highly aligned, highly crystalline donor–acceptor polymer thin films over large area (>1 cm2) and promoted charge transport along both the polymer backbone and the π–π stacking direction in field-effect transistors. We further demonstrate that the charge transport anisotropy can be reversed by tuning the degree of polymer backbone alignment.

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Cellular interfaces with hydrogen-bonded organic semiconductor hierarchical nanocrystals

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Successful formation of electronic interfaces between living cells and semiconductors hinges on being able to obtain an extremely close and high surface-area contact, which preserves both cell viability and semiconductor performance. To accomplish this, we introduce organic semiconductor assemblies consisting of a hierarchical arrangement of nanocrystals. These are synthesised via a colloidal chemical route that transforms the nontoxic commercial pigment quinacridone into various biomimetic three-dimensional arrangements of nanocrystals. Through a tuning of parameters such as precursor concentration, ligands and additives, we obtain complex size and shape control at room temperature. We elaborate hedgehog-shaped crystals comprising nanoscale needles or daggers that form intimate interfaces with the cell membrane, minimising the cleft with single cells without apparent detriment to viability. Excitation of such interfaces with light leads to effective cellular photostimulation. We find reversible light-induced conductance changes in ion-selective or temperature-gated channels.

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Inverted battery design as ion generator for interfacing with biosystems

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In a lithium-ion battery, electrons are released from the anode and go through an external electronic circuit to power devices, while ions simultaneously transfer through internal ionic media to meet with electrons at the cathode. Inspired by the fundamental electrochemistry of the lithium-ion battery, we envision a cell that can generate a current of ions instead of electrons, so that ions can be used for potential applications in biosystems. Based on this concept, we report an ‘electron battery’ configuration in which ions travel through an external circuit to interact with the intended biosystem whereas electrons are transported internally. As a proof-of-concept, we demonstrate the application of the electron battery by stimulating a monolayer of cultured cells, which fluoresces a calcium ion wave at a controlled ionic current. Electron batteries with the capability to generate a tunable ionic current could pave the way towards precise ion-system control in a broad range of biological applications.

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Electronic components embedded in a single graphene nanoribbon

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The use of graphene in electronic devices requires a band gap, which can be achieved by creating nanostructures such as graphene nanoribbons. A wide variety of atomically precise graphene nanoribbons can be prepared through on-surface synthesis, bringing the concept of graphene nanoribbon electronics closer to reality. For future applications it is beneficial to integrate contacts and more functionality directly into single ribbons by using heterostructures. Here, we use the on-surface synthesis approach to fabricate a metal-semiconductor junction and a tunnel barrier in a single graphene nanoribbon consisting of 5- and 7-atom wide segments. We characterize the atomic scale geometry and electronic structure by combined atomic force microscopy, scanning tunneling microscopy, and conductance measurements complemented by density functional theory and transport calculations. These junctions are relevant for developing contacts in all-graphene nanoribbon devices and creating diodes and transistors, and act as a first step toward complete electronic devices built into a single graphene nanoribbon.

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Triggerable tough hydrogels for gastric resident dosage forms

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Systems capable of residing for prolonged periods of time in the gastric cavity have transformed our ability to diagnose and treat patients. Gastric resident systems for drug delivery, ideally need to be: ingestible, be able to change shape or swell to ensure prolonged gastric residence, have the mechanical integrity to withstand the forces associated with gastrointestinal motility, be triggerable to address any side effects, and be drug loadable and release drug over a prolonged period of time. Materials that have been primarily utilized for these applications have been largely restricted to thermoplastics and thermosets. Here we describe a novel set of materials, triggerable tough hydrogels, meeting all these requirement, supported by evaluation in a large animal model and ultimately demonstrate the potential of triggerable tough hydrogels to serve as prolonged gastric resident drug depots. Triggerable tough hydrogels may be applied in myriad of applications, including bariatric interventions, drug delivery, and tissue engineering.

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Simultaneous monitoring of single cell and of micro-organ activity by PEDOT:PSS covered multi-electrode arrays

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Continuous and long-term monitoring of cellular and micro-organ activity is required for new insights into physiology and novel technologies such as Organs-on-Chip. Moreover, recent advances in stem cell technology and especially in the field of diabetes call for non-invasive approaches in quality testing of the large quantities of surrogate pancreatic islets to be generated. Electrical activity of such a micro-organ results in single cell action potentials (APs) of high frequency and in low frequency changes in local field potentials (slow potentials or SPs), reflecting coupled cell activity and overall organ physiology. Each of them is indicative of different physiological stages in islet activation. Action potentials in islets are of small amplitude and very difficult to detect. The use of PEDOT:PSS to coat metal electrodes is expected to reduce noise and results in a frequency-dependent change in impedance, as shown here. Whereas detection of high-frequency APs improves, low frequency SPs are less well detected which is, however, an acceptable trade off in view of the strong amplitude of SPs. Using a dedicated software, recorded APs and SPs can be automatically diagnosed and analyzed. Concomitant capture of the two signals will considerably increase the diagnostic power of monitoring islets and islet surrogates in fundamental research as well as drug screening or the use of islets as biosensors.

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Human intestinal epithelium in a dish: Current models for research into gastrointestinal pathophysiology

Determining the exact pathogenesis of chronic gastrointestinal diseases remains difficult due to the complex in vivo environment. In this review we give an overview of the available epithelial cell culture systems developed to investigate pathophysiology of gastrointestinal diseases. Traditionally used two-dimensional (2D) immortalised (tumour) cell lines survive long-term, but are not genetically stable nor represent any human in particular. In contrast, primary cultures are patient unique, but short-lived. Three-dimensional (3D) organoid cultures resemble the crypt-villus domain and contain all cell lineages, are long-lived and genetically stable. Unfortunately, manipulation of the 3D organoid system is more challenging. Combining the 3D and 2D technologies may overcome limitations and offer the formation of monolayers on permeable membranes or flow-chambers. Determining the right model to use will depend on the pathology of interest and the focus of the research, defining which cell types need to be included in the model.

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Enhanced electrogastrography: A realistic way to salvage a promise that was never kept?

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Intrinsic gastric electrical activity is of specific nature that restricts the clinical applicability of its non-invasive measurements known as electrogastrography (EGG). This study proposes the utilization of an ingestible, self-expanding and self-disintegrating pseudobesoar containing a miniature electrical oscillator to enhance the clinical utility of EGG in diagnosing functional dyspepsia and gastroparesis.

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Consent and engagement, security, and authentic living using wearable and mobile health technology

Mobile health applications and wearable health technologies are becoming ubiquitous. Although such technology offers great promise for streamlining healthcare and empowering users in their pursuit of health and wellness, it also poses ethical challenges for clinical practice, research, and everyday living. Like any other biomedical technology, accuracy and reliability, informed consent, and privacy and confidentiality must be taken into account when designing and using mobile and wearable health and wellness technologies. But mobile health applications and wearables also pose additional ethical considerations that are important when implementing this technology. These are consent and engagement, security, and authentic living. Here, we identify these issues and provide recommendations for ameliorating any concerns that may arise with this technology. Overall, we argue that for an appropriately informed and engaged user, this technology can provide great benefits, and burdens can be mitigated.

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Single-cell genome sequencing at ultra-high-throughput with microfluidic droplet barcoding

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The application of single-cell genome sequencing to large cell populations has been hindered by technical challenges in isolating single cells during genome preparation. Here we present single-cell genomic sequencing (SiC-seq), which uses droplet microfluidics to isolate, fragment, and barcode the genomes of single cells, followed by Illumina sequencing of pooled DNA. We demonstrate ultra-high-throughput sequencing of >50,000 cells per run in a synthetic community of Gram-negative and Gram-positive bacteria and fungi. The sequenced genomes can be sorted in silico based on characteristic sequences. We use this approach to analyze the distributions of antibiotic-resistance genes, virulence factors, and phage sequences in microbial communities from an environmental sample. The ability to routinely sequence large populations of single cells will enable the de-convolution of genetic heterogeneity in diverse cell populations.

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