The use of stretchable electrodes interfaced with the human body has enabled a new frontier in biomedical engineering, and the miniaturization of such electrodes can allow for a more precise spatial control to monitor or stimulate tissues. The understanding of the response of cells or tissues to combined electromechanical stimulation, as made possible by stretchable electrodes, is essential to improve medical devices and therapies. Cheap to produce and easy to use platforms for in vitro cell studies are thus urgently needed. This study reports the successful implementation of silver nanowires (AgNWs) into an integrated miniaturized electromechanical stimulator, which is compatible with cell culture. The innovative steps include a lithography-based lift-off method to micropattern AgNWs onto an elastic silicone membrane. These stretchable microelectrodes are then integrated into a microfluidic device for cell culture, which enables the synchronous electromechanical stimulation of cells. In a proof-of-concept study, it is furthermore shown that fibroblasts respond uniquely to mechanical stretching, electrical stimulation, and combined electromechanical stimulations in terms of cell alignment and morphology, as well as by producing the extracellular matrix protein collagen. This proof-of-concept study illustrates the functionality and usability of these stretchable AgNWs microelectrodes for either basic research or future biomedical applications.
Hosseini, V. et al. Stretchable Silver Nanowire Microelectrodes for Combined Mechanical and Electrical Stimulation of Cells. doi: 10.1002/adhm.201600045