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Berkeley scientists develop bionic chip

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Scientists at the world renowned University of California at Berkeley are heralding the invention of the first ever bionic chip. The chip is said to be "part living tissue, part machine" and will be used to open the membrane of a cell via electrical impulses to enable the introduction of new material, or the extraction of cell data. The living part of the chip is so small it cannot be seen with the naked eye. Sufferers of conditions such as cystic fibrosis or diabetes could be among the first to benefit from the chip. It was developed by Prof Boris Rubinsky and one of his graduate students, Yong Huang. Living cells can be used to act within circuits as an electrical diode and while this has been understood for some time, this is the first time cells' electrical behaviour has been harnessed in this way. The university issued a statement in which it said: "Berkeley's bionic chip took three years to build using silicon microfabrication technology. It is transparent, so it can be studied by microscope, and measures about one hundredth of an inch across. The much tinier cell, which measures about 20 microns across, or one thousandth of an inch, is not visible to the naked eye. It sits in a hole in the center of the chip and is kept alive with an infusion of nutrients." Prof Rubinsky said: "The first electronic diode made it possible to have the computer. Who knows what the first biological diode will make possible?" Of course, if you'd been reading the UK national papers last year, this will probably strike you as a lot of fuss about nothing. Most, if not all, of the best-selling papers -- not to mention a raft of magazines -- carried stories last year about the work of the UK's own bionic man, Prof Kevin Warwick of Reading University. Warwick reckons to have already had a chip implanted in his arm. The Daily Telegraph devoted almost a whole page to the good Prof, and a chip that both he and his wife were to have fitted inside them which would allow the couple to know what each was feeling at any given moment. Despite the extravagant claims, much of Warwick's work resides in the realms of the theoretical and is -- as yet -- unproven. Warwick has been referred to as an "idiot" and a "buffoon" by other members of the UK academic community. ® Related Stories Home truths: Bionic man takes the Metal Mickey World's first cyborg: man/machine or pipedream? Robot cat barred from flight to Moscow

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