Classical telecommunications solutions fail to meet size, environmental and bio-compatibility constraints to realize communication networks for the next-generation nanotechnology and synthetic-biology-enabled electrical and biological wearable and implantable devices, i.e., the Internet of Bio-Nano Things. On the other hand, the direct contact of these devices with the human body, where the cells naturally communicate and interconnect into networks, suggests a novel way of interconnection exploiting the natural mechanisms of biological communication. The goal of the IntraBioNets project is to address fundamental challenges in the development of a self-sustainable and bio-compatible network infrastructure based on these biological communication channels. In particular, the IntraBioNets project focuses on the development of fundamental models of usable communication channels on top of the biological processes underlying the Microbiome-Gut-Brain Axis (MGBA), composed of the gut microbial community, the gut tissues, the enteric nervous system, and their interconnects. The outcome of this proposal will establish the feasibility of a potentially transformative networking domain paving the way for the next-generation biomedical systems for pervasive, constant, and remote healthcare. Novel communication concepts, techniques, and proof-of-concept simulations developed throughout the project will provide immediate impact in applications for healthcare (e.g., systems for advanced and constant tele-health monitoring), and broader impacts in bioinformatics, (e.g., communication-based models for the interpretation of biological data) and cyber-defense (e.g., biometric parameter sensing for identification). Scientific results will be disseminated at international conferences, journals and magazines. PhD students (especially women and underrepresented minorities) will be supported and mentored through the project to become experts in this field.
The proposed research seeks to develop a completely novel and unexplored area spanning across diverse fields, including communication theory and networking, biology, and physiology. Specifically, this project will contribute along the following directions. First, for the first time in research, physical channel models will be developed to quantitatively characterize i) electrical communications over enteric and autonomic nerves and muscle activity; ii) molecular communications through gut microbial community; iii) the transduction between electrical and molecular communications through the MGBA. Then, a network simulator will be developed to validate the aforementioned models for information through electrical and molecular signals. Finally, the current state-of-the-art for biosensors and bioelectronics will be investigated for future knowledge transfer to hardware development to create devices capable of accessing the aforementioned channels.
This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.