This paper aims to describe the disruptive potential that polymeric thin films have in the field of biohybrid devices and to review the recent efforts in this area. Thin (thickness < 1 mm) and ultra-thin (thickness < 1 μm) matrices possess a series of intriguing features, such as large surface area/volume ratio, high flexibility, chemical and physical surface tailorability, etc. This enables the fabrication of advanced bio/non-bio interfaces able to efficiently drive cell-material interactions, which are the key for optimizing biohybrid device performances. Thin films can thus represent suitable platforms on which living and artificial elements are coupled, with the aim of exploiting the unique features of living cells/tissues. This may allow to carry out certain tasks, not achievable with fully artificial technologies. In the paper, after a description of the desirable chemical/physical cues to be targeted and of the fabrication, functionalization and characterization procedures to be used for thin and ultra-thin films, the state-of-the-art of biohybrid microrobots based on micro/nano-membranes are described and discussed. The research efforts in this field are rather recent and they focus on: (1) self-beating cells (such as cardiomyocytes) able to induce a relatively large deformation of the underlying substrates, but affected by a limited controllability by external users; (2) skeletal muscle cells, more difficult to engineer in mature and functional contractile tissues, but featured by a higher controllability. In this context, the different materials used and the performances achieved are analyzed. Despite recent interesting advancements and signs of maturity of this research field, important scientific and technological steps are still needed. In the paper some possible future perspectives are described, mainly concerning thin film manipulation and assembly in multilayer 3D systems, new advanced materials to be used for the fabrication of thin films, cell engineering opportunities and modelling/computational efforts.
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