Bioengineered swimming jellyfish may lead to heart repairs

Jul 23, 2012
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Large varieties of jellyfish swim the oceans all around the world. Researchers from Harvard and the California Institute of technology have created a bioengineered jellyfish that's able to swim. The jellyfish is made with a mixture of silicone and rat heart cells. The bioengineered jellyfish isn't a living organism; rather it's more akin to a robot with a muscular structure similar to that of a living jellyfish.

The researchers hope that the development will lead to more than robotic jellyfish. The goal of the team is to make it possible harvest cells from one organism and then reorganized them using bioengineering for human use such as in heart repair. The team hopes to be able to do things such as make a heart pacemaker it doesn't require battery power.

The artificial jellyfish that the team designed uses a silicone polymer and is a centimeter long. The artificial jellyfish is comprised of a membrane with eight arm-like appendages that are overlaid with muscle cells obtained from a rat heart. The cells are aligned in a particular pattern which one researcher Kevin Kit Parker says were "coaxed" into self-organizing so that they matched the jellyfish's muscle architecture precisely. The team called the robot Medusoid and when it's placed in a salty fluid capable of conducting electricity, it contracts in a synchronized manner when a voltage is applied to the fluid. The team of engineers hopes to design an artificial jellyfish that is capable of gathering food on its own in the future, Medusoid is unable to gather its own food.

[via WSJ]


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