Medusoid Mimics Jellyfish with Heart MuscleCategory: Science & Technology
Posted: July 24, 2012 08:55AM
Nature has many secrets man is still trying to understand, but luckily Nature also shares the knowledge, if you look in the right places. To improve our understanding of natural pumps made of muscle, like the heart, researchers at the California Institute of Technology made a mimic of the medusa jellyfish, which has been pumping its way through the oceans for as much as 500 million years. To achieve this though, the researchers took a different approach than others.
Often when trying to mimic tissues or organs, researchers will study the original and try to identify what are the most important parts of it, so they know what is most important to replicate. This is not an ideal method though because some features may be misidentified as important or unimportant, and you will not know until you test the finished product.
Instead of just mimicking the design of the jellyfish, the Caltech researchers looked to mimic its function, which is to pump through a fluid. First they made a silicone polymer with elasticity similar to that of a natural jellyfish, and then printed a protein pattern onto with. This pattern was to direct the growth of cells taken from the heart of a rat as they grow across the jellyfish-shaped silicone. To test the Medusoid, as they call the mimic jellyfish, it was placed in a tank of conductive fluid, and a current with oscillating voltage was passed through it. As the voltage swept from 0 V to 5 V, the Medusoid pumped, just like the real jellyfish.
The researchers hope this experiment will help others better create bio-inspired devices by mimicking the functions of biology instead of the individual components. Also the method used to collect the heart cells and reorganize them on another material may prove very useful for future projects.