Scientists hope that this discovery could lead to a tremendous medical breakthrough.
It’s an amazing creation that could one day revolutionize how scientists create artificial hearts — a tiny swimming stingray that is actually entirely synthetic.
This robot stingray could lead to the development of an artificial heart, according to a paper published in the journal Science.
The robot stingray propels itself with living muscle cells and has been genetically modified to be controlled by a blue light that is flashed at it.
But what does it have to do with artificial hearts? Today’s hearts are built with mechanical pumps, but this robotic stingray would show how one could use living muscle cells to allow it to behave more like a human heart, and even grow over time.
Stingrays actually have a similar problem to the human heart in that they need to overcome problems involving fluid in motion. As the heart has to pump blood through the body, a stingray also has to pump itself through water.
The lab had previously successfully created an artificial jellyfish, but the stingray proved more ambitious and required the use of rat cells. The finished product was no bigger than a nickel and had a transparent body made of silicone with a skeleton made of gold. It has 200,000 heart muscle cells from a rat, which were genetically altered to move on the command of flashed blue lights.
“Inspired by the relatively simple morphological blueprint provided by batoid fish such as stingrays and skates, we created a biohybrid system that enables an artificial animal—a tissue-engineered ray—to swim and phototactically follow a light cue,” the abstract states. “By patterning dissociated rat cardiomyocytes on an elastomeric body enclosing a microfabricated gold skeleton, we replicated fish morphology at Embedded Image scale and captured basic fin deflection patterns of batoid fish. Optogenetics allows for phototactic guidance, steering, and turning maneuvers. Optical stimulation induced sequential muscle activation via serpentine-patterned muscle circuits, leading to coordinated undulatory swimming. The speed and direction of the ray was controlled by modulating light frequency and by independently eliciting right and left fins, allowing the biohybrid machine to maneuver through an obstacle course.”
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