Bioengineered Jellyfish Paves Way for Heart Repairs
We’ve written about robotic jellyfish before, but this project takes things a step further. Researchers at Harvard and the California Institute of Technology, in a quest to find ways to make fresh tissue for heart patients, have created a jellyfish (named Medusoid) via a mix of silicone and rat heart cells that can swim freely in water.
The goal: by harvesting cells from one organism and restructuring them, they could potentially be used to create something like a pacemaker that wouldn’t need batteries, or even reverse engineer entire organs.
The scientists chose the jellyfish because its propulsion mechanism closely resembles the function of a beating heart. They used a silicone polymer to build the creature, then overlaid rat heart muscle cells. When placed in a conductive fluid, the membrane contracted in a synchronized manner in response to changes in voltage.
“It occurred to me in 2007 that we might have failed to understand the fundamental laws of muscular pumps. 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.” – Kevin Kit Parker, Tarr Family Professor of Bioengineering and Applied Physics at the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS)
To reverse-engineer the jellyfish, the team used analysis tools more commonly used for law enforcement biometrics and crystallography to make maps of the alignment of “subcellular protein networks within all of the muscle cells within the animal.” The research was published earlier this month in Nature Biotechnology.
The team plans to eventually develop a model that can gather food on its own.
You can see a video of Medusoid in action below:
Source: The Wall Street Journal