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Artificial stingray developed using rat muscles
Using heart cells of a rat, researchers at Harvard’s Wyss Institute have created an artificial stingray. The researchers believe that the development could lead to a better artificial heart. This stingray bot is made up of four different layers.
These four different layers include a silicone substrate that forms the body; a skeletal system made of gold wire, a second layer of silicone that insulates the skin and the fourth layer is of 200,000 genetically-engineered rat cells. These cells weighed around 10 grams and were 16 millimeters in length.
These cells will contract when exposed to a specific wavelength of light. The device works by making the muscles to respond to light and that makes the rubber body to flab and move.
Study’s lead researcher Kit Parker said that stingray bot automatically follows the light source when it swims through the nutrient-rich liquid that keeps its cells alive and allows it to be remote-controlled.
The researchers said that the stingray bot could not survive outside the lab for now. Parker said that the bio-bot does not require any specialized liquid, but the rate cells do not have any immune system and would be instantly attacked by bacterial and fungal pathogens.
But this hurdle does not let the researchers to have a hope that other researchers would be able to develop a complete, genetically-engineered heart and other things. Parker mentioned, “Roboticists and engineers can see different ways to use biological cells as building materials. Marine biologists can take a look to better understand why the muscle tissues in rays are built and organized the way they are”.
The researchers said that using the similar technologies, it is possible to build an artificial heart. The artificial heart that would be made from living muscle cells would behave almost like a natural heart as compared to the earlier developed artificial hearts.
Parker mentioned that there is a reason for which the heart has been built this way and they have been trying to duplicate its functions as much as it is possible. Parker said that he has used stingray as a model because the stingray and the heart required to overcome the problems that require fluid and motion.
One of the main issues is that a stingray needs to go through the water and the heart requires to pump blood through the circulatory system. Parker affirmed that after developing an artificial stingray, he has been able to figure out as how to mimic the animal’s ability to respond to changing conditions.
The stingray development as per the researchers is a positive step towards more intelligent and light weight robotics, but they also acknowledged that it has limitations when it comes to move it needs to feed off the sugary energy solution.
Parker said that the bio-bot operates at high energy efficiency and derives power from energy-dense, locally available nutrients. For now, they require specialized environments and that factor as per Parker may limit their applicability.
There are some experts who are not comfortable with the development. Prof. John Dabiri from Stanford University said that the stingray could make some people uncomfortable as it raises a question about when a machine becomes a living organism. He even mentioned that other scientists might be considering similar projects.