A team of eight scientists in Harvard University and Cal Tech have jointly accomplished an unbelievable feat. They succeeded in creating an artificial jellyfish. An article entitled, “A tissue-engineered jellyfish with biomimetic propulsion” has been published on the 22nd July issue of Nature Biotechnology. The findings reported here are considered to help in artificial heart designing. GNOBB readers will find interesting relevant information in the video clip: provided by Harvard University Newsletter.
The eight scientists reported the construction of a freely swimming jellyfish from chemically dissociated rat tissue and silicone polymer. The constructs (termed as medusoids) were designed with computer simulations and experiments to match key determinants of jellyfish propulsion and feeding performance by quantitatively mimicking structural design, stroke kinematics and animal-fluid interactions. The result acts as a proof of concept for reverse engineering of a range of muscular organs and simple life forms. It also suggests a broader definition of synthetic life in an emerging field that has primarily focused on replicating life’s building blocks. In the current study, the investigators used analysis tools borrowed from the fields of law enforcement biometrics and crystallography to make maps of the alignment of sub-cellular protein networks within all of the muscle cells of animals. They then conducted studies to understand the electrophysiological triggering of jellyfish propulsion and the biomechanics of the propulsive stroke itself. Based on such understanding, it turned out that a sheet of cultured rat heart muscle tissue was the perfect raw material to create an ersatz jellyfish. The team then incorporated a silicone polymer that fashions the body of the artificial creature into a thin membrane that resembles a small jellyfish with eight arm-like appendages. Furthermore, the team aims to carry out further work on the artificial jellyfish. They want to make adjustments that will allow it to turn and move in a particular direction. They also plan to incorporate a simple brain, so it can respond to its environment and replicate more advanced behaviors like moving towards a light source and seeking energy or food. [Smmarized by a graduate student, Samsad Razzaque]