Artificial Jellyfish Will Inspire Reverse Engineering
Researchers from the Caltech and Harvard University have created a jellyfish-like creature with a mix of silicone and rat-heart cells. Although it is not a living organism but a robot, it resembles a real jellyfish and can swim through water, claim the researchers. Credit:Nature Biotechnology
Researchers from the Caltech and Harvard University have created a jellyfish-like creature with a mix of silicone and rat-heart cells. Although it is not a living organism but a robot, it resembles a real jellyfish and can swim through water, researchers claim.
The coin-sized bioengineered machine has been named "medusoid." The name has been derived from medusa, a historic name for jellyfish.
Scientists believe that the new research will help them harvest cells in a bioengineered system for human use, it can also be considered as a step on the way to building new hearts and the method will establish the concept of reverse engineering for a variety of muscular organs and simple life forms.
Like Us on Facebook
"In many ways, it is still a very qualitative art, with people trying to copy a tissue or organ just based on what they think is important or what they see as the major components - without necessarily understanding if those components are relevant to the desired function or without analyzing first how different materials could be used," explains Janna Nawroth of Caltech. "Because a particular function - swimming, say - doesn't necessarily emerge just from copying every single element of a swimming organism into a design, our idea was that we would make jellyfish functions - swimming and creating feeding currents - as our target and then build a structure based on that information."
According to Kevin Kit Parker, a bioengineer at Harvard University and a co-author of the study, "What we're trying to do is become really good at building tissue" for medical use. He further adds that "This is just practice" of reverse-engineering the entire organs.
To build the jellyfish, the team used a silicone polymer and made a centimeter-long medusoid with eight arm-like attachments which was layered with heart cells from rats.
"We coaxed them to self-organize so that they matched the [muscle] architecture of a jellyfish precisely," Dr. Parker said.
To make the machine swim, scientists put it in the salty water and pulsed an electric current across it. ,
While the robot acts almost like a real jellyfish, the main difference between the two is that "the real jellyfish can go and get nutrients and ours can't," said John Dabiri, a co-author of the study and a bioengineer at Caltech.
Details of the experiment were published on Sunday in journal Nature Biotechnology.