Scientists at Harvard University and the California Institute of Technology have created a jellyfish robot out of silicone and living muscle cells taken from a rat heart, according to an article in the journal Nature Biotechnology published today.
The researchers arranged the muscle cells on an eight-armed silicone shape so that when the cells were zapped with electricity, they would contract and the robot would swim through water like a live jellyfish, the Wall Street Journal reported.
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The scientists have named their artificial jellyfish "Medusoid,” Bloomberg Businessweek reported.
According to the Wall Street Journal:
Scientists hope that such techniques will make it possible to harvest cells from one organism and then reorganize them in sophisticated ways to make a bioengineered system for human use, such as a heart pacemaker that wouldn't require battery power.
“As engineers, we’re very comfortable building with plastics and metals, but in the long term, we think the more viable approach is to build these components out of biological materials,” CalTech professor John Dabiri, one of the study’s authors, said, according to Bloomberg Businessweek.
“What we're trying to do is become really good at building tissue" for medical use,” Kevin Kit Parker, a bioengineer at Harvard University and co-author of the study, told the Wall Street Journal. "This is just practice" for reverse-engineering entire organs, he said.