Scientists from the Harvard University and California Institute of Technology have created free-swimming artificial jellyfish made of silicone that closely resembles human heart in movement, the BBC has reported.
The findings of the study were published in the Nature Biotechnology journal July 22.
The jellyfish replica built with a silicone base was embedded with heart muscle cells harvested from rats. The scientists employed electric current to shock the jellyfish dubbed Medusoid into action.
The jellyfish propels through water by pumping just like the movement of the heart that pumps blood in the human body.
Kevin Kit Parker, Tarr Family Professor of Bioengineering and Applied Physics at the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) and a Co-author of the study, said in the Harvard Gazette: 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.
Once the functions were understood, the researchers began to design artificial jellyfish. Silicone was employed to design jellyfish-shaped body with arm-like appendages. Muscle cells obtained from a rat heart were overlaid on this membrane in a particular pattern.
The bioengineered structure, Medusoid, was then placed in a fluid that conducted electric currents. In accordance with oscillations in voltage in the fluid, the tissue-engineered jellyfish contracted in a synchronized manner.
The study attains significance as it yields some immediate practical benefits. A report published in The Wall Street Journal states how it will benefit drug companies that often test new heart drugs on cardiac tissue. With the jellyfish mimicking the beating of a human heart, it could easily serve as an alternative model.
I could put your drug in the jellyfish and tell you if it's going to work, Parker told the WSJ.
John O Dabiri, professor of aeronautics and bioengineering at the Calfornia Institute of Technology in Pasadena and another co-author of the study told BBC, 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.