THEY're best known for sending sea swimmers into a fright, but now jellyfish have inspired what could be a revolutionary medical procedure. A robotic version of the creature may soon be used to create artificial human organs such as a heart.
The Medusoid – named after snaked-haired Medusa, the Greek mythological figure whose tentacles it resembles – moves through water and may be capable of creating tissue. Scientists came up with the idea after noticing how jellyfish and a human heart are able to pump in a similar way. They used silicon and rat heart cells to create an elastic material similar to the ‘jelly’. ‘I was surprised that with relatively few components we were able to reproduce pretty complex swimming and feeding behaviours that you see in biological jellyfish,’ said Prof John Dabiri, of the California Institute of Technology. –Metro
‘I am pleasantly surprised at how close we are getting to matching the natural biological performance but also that we are seeing ways in which we can improve on that natural performance.
‘The process of evolution missed a lot of good solutions.’
Prof Kevin Parker, of Harvard University, added: ‘As engineers we are very comfortable with building things out of steel, copper, concrete.
‘I think of cells as another kind of building substrate, but we need rigorous design specs to move tissue engineering from arts and crafts to a reproducible type of engineering.’
The scientists hope to design a Medusoid that operates on its own using internal signals, as human hearts do, and find its own food.
It could put in a human for years without being powered by a battery, they say in the study in Nature Biotechnology. Metro