Scottish scientists have come a step closer to making the use of silicon chips for repairing damaged tissue a reality.
The team from University of Edinburgh have taken the conventional silicon chip design and used it to grow neurons - the basic cells of the human nervous system.
It is believed that the new technology would soon be used to make chips to replace damaged nerve or muscle fibre.
During the chip manufacturing process, researchers printed patterns on the smooth silicon surface.
The chip was later dipped in a special mixture of proteins, which led to the growth of neurons along the patterns on the surface.
This technique also works with stem cells - the most basic cells that are the building blocks of the body.
Scientists believe that the novel method will one day enable any tissue to be grown and implanted as prosthetic tissue in the body.
The university said that the prosthetic chips could eventually be used in support of conventional microsurgery.
"This is a small but important step on the path towards the long-term goal of many scientists and medical experts, which is to develop surgical implants by using silicon chips," the Scotsman quoted Professor Alan Murray, head of the University of Edinburgh's school of engineering and electronics, as saying.
"We also hope that rather sooner than this, the technique will allow better methods of drug discovery and reduce the need for animal testing, as new medicines could be tested on chips rather than on live creatures," he added.