Researchers from Harvard University and the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) have turned inanimate silicone and living cardiac muscle cells into a freely swimming jellyfish.
Published in Nature Biotechnology on July 22, the method used for producing the tissue-engineered jellyfish has been dubbed ‘Medusoid.’
Jellyfish propel themselves by pumping, US researchers therefore focused on human heart to develop the artificial fish that mimic a jellyfish.
“I started looking at marine organisms that pump to survive. Then I saw a jellyfish at the New England Aquarium and I immediately noted both similarities and differences between how the jellyfish and the human heart pump,” said study co-author Kevin Kit Parker, who is a Professor of Bioengineering and Applied Physics at the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS).
The team cultured rat heart muscle tissue, which contracts when electrically stimulated, in a liquid environment.
As the next step, researchers incorporated a silicone polymer into a thin membrane that resembles a small jellyfish with eight arm-like appendages.
The artificial construct was finally placed in ocean-like salt water and shocked into swimming with synchronized muscle contractions that mimic those of real jellyfish.
“A big goal of our study was to advance tissue engineering as in many ways, it is still a very qualitative art,” said lead author of the study Janna Nawroth, a doctoral student in biology at Caltech university who collaborated Parker in building ‘Medusoid.’
Scientists believe the design strategy will be broadly applicable to the reverse engineering of muscular organs in humans.
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