Jul 24, 2012 05:47 AM EDT
Harvard and Caltech Create Artificial Jellyfish
By using the advanced technologies in the fields of tissue engineering, biomechanics and material science, scientists of two prominent universities have collaborated together and succeeded in creating a swimming artificial jellyfish.
Scientists from the Harvard University and California Institute of Technology have jointly created this organism out of silicon polymer and heart muscle cells. The details of this 'Reverse-Engineering Project' have been published in the website of the journal Nature Biotechnology, reports Telegraph Science.
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The jellyfish has been dubbed as 'Medusoid' owing its name to Greek Mythology figure, Medusa who could turn people into stone with her single gaze. The structure of the jellyfish seems to be very similar to her snake haired character.
This synthetic jellyfish can swim in the water just like any other jellyfish, thanks to the heart muscles of the rats implanted into the silicon frame which grew into a pattern very similar to the muscles of an actual jellyfish. Scientists demonstrated the process by passing electricity through the conducting liquid which led the heart muscles to contract and the jellyfish to move.
"Morphologically, we've built a jellyfish. Functionally, we've built a jellyfish. Genetically, this thing is a rat," Harvard biophysicist Kevin Kit Parker told Nature's Ed Yong.
Janna Nawroth, lead author of the study, said that most researchers working in tissue engineering have attempted to copy tissue or organs by simply recreating its major components, regardless of what their function is and whether they could be replaced by something simpler.
She added: Our idea was that we would make jellyfish functions - swimming and creating feeding currents - as our target and then build a structure based on that information."
Parker and Nawroth, along with Caltech aeronautics and bioengineering professor John Dabiri, decided that the jellyfish, which is said to be the oldest multi-organ animal on Earth, was the best subject for their research because the way their muscles operate while swimming and their morphology is similar to a beating human heart, Harvard explained in a July 22 press release.
According to Yong, the team now plans to expand their research, first by creating a medusoid that utilizes human heart cells, and then by reverse-engineering other forms of aquatic life.