An engineered jellyfish is being referred to the world’s first cyborg life form after scientists engineer it from rat cells and silicone. (Photo : Reuters)
An engineered jellyfish is being referred to the world’s first robotic life form after scientists engineer it from rat cells and silicone.
The organism, called a Medusoid, is a thin layer of rat heart muscle cells on a layer of elastic silicone. The conclusion is a creature that resembles a jellyfish.
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It was created by the bioengineers at Caltech and Harvard, and is proclaimed to be the first step toward cyborg life.
Using rat heart cells, the scientists were able to emulate the jelly’s propulsion system, and moves when exposed to electrical currents in the water. The silicone feature of the Medusoid alters its shape. For every heartbeat, via the rat heart cells, the jelly constricts and creates movement.
The intent on the experiment was to find a way to repair organs. Harvard biophysicist Kevin Kit Parker took part in the experiment and outlined in Nature Biotechnology that one of the hopes the Medusoid can provide is to be beneficial to test heart drugs as the researchers suggest that their work was based on finding solutions for artificial organs.
The scientists wrote, “At this stage, swimming behavior is limited...we have no means of fine-controlling local muscle contraction to achieve, for example, turning and maneuvering. However, the future integration of multiple cell types and compound materials will allow for constructs of greater autonomy that are capable of sensing the environment and employing internal decision-making circuits to choose a suitable response from a variety of behaviors.”
Parker added, "What we're trying to do is become really good at building tissue [for medical use]. This is just practice."
Parker hopes the practice would lead to reverse-engineer entire organism.
The Medusoid does mimic the beating of a human heart, which could serve as a model to drug testing on the cardiac tissues.
"I could put your drug in the jellyfish and tell you if it's going to work," said Dr. Parker.
When blood enters the left ventricle of the Medusoid’s pumping heart, it creates a rotating fluid mass that is similar to the vortices created by a swimming jellyfish.
Details of the experiment can be found in the journal Nature Biotechnology, and video of the Medusoid is available (below).
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