Scientists build artificial jellyfish

2012-07-23 09:31
Scientists have created an artificial jellyfish that could help save patients with heart disease. (AP)

Scientists have created an artificial jellyfish that could help save patients with heart disease. (AP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Video

VIDEO: Artificial jellyfish

2012-07-23 09:30

This Nature Biotechnology video on YouTube shows the artificial jellyfish made by researchers at Harvard University using a sheet of silicone and rat heart cells.WATCH

Paris - Using cells from rat hearts and a seer polymer film, scientists on Sunday reported they had created an artificial jellyfish that could one day help save patients with heart disease.

The exploit marks an advance in so-called biomimicry, in which a natural wonder inspires copycat innovation in the lab.

The interest in the jellyfish lies in its remarkable swimming ability, which comes from muscles that open its bell-like body and then contract it, thus ejecting water and driving the creature along.

This pump-like design has been honed by more than 500 million years of evolution to be as simple and energy-efficient as possible.

As a result, it offers tempting insights for scientists hoping to make small, reliable heart pumps for the future.

Muscle architecture

"It occurred to me in 2007 that we might have failed to understand the fundamental laws of muscular pumps," said Kevin Kit Parker, a professor of bio-engineering at the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences.

"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."

The paper is published on Sunday in the journal Nature Biotechnology.

Dubbed "Medusoid" after the Medusa, the snake-haired creature of mythology that provides the Latin name for jellyfish, the lab creature has a body of an ultra-thin silicone polymer with eight limb-like appendages.

The arms are coated with a protein in patterns that resemble the muscle architecture of the real jellyfish.

The protein's job is to act as a nutritional scaffold to grow and direct a batch of cells derived from the muscles of rat hearts.

Thus primed for action, Medusoid was unleashed in a lab container of electrically conductive fluid.

'Natural performance'

The scientists threw a switch to put a tiny voltage, ranging from 1V to 5V, into the fluid to make Medusoid's muscle cells contract and relax rhythmically.

As they did so, the arms opened and closed like fingers on a clenching fist, propelling Medusoid around the tank.

"I was surprised that with relatively few components - a silicone base and cells that we arranged - we were able to reproduce some pretty complex swimming and feeding behaviours that you see in biological jellyfish," said John Dabiri, a professor of aeronautics and bio-engineering at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech).

"I'm pleasantly surprised at how close we are getting to matching the natural biological performance, but also that we're seeing ways in which we can probably improve on that natural performance. The process of evolution missed a lot of good solutions."

The natural jellyfish has also inspired "Robojelly," a US Navy-backed research innovation that was showcased in March.

It has eight appendages made of shape-metal alloy - metals that remember their original shape after being scrunched up.

The appendages are coated with a platinum powder that reacts with the oxygen and hydrogen in seawater to create heat, which causes the segments to contract. When they cool down, they relax, thus ejecting the water and pushing Robojelly along.
Read more on:    science  |  research

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.
NEXT ON NEWS24X

linking and moving

2015-04-22 07:36

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
12 comments
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

 
/News

Book flights

Compare, Book, Fly

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.




Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.