The boundaries of hybrid biotechnology and applied physics have been stretched too far that first artificial animal has been created by Kit Parker using 3D print rubber and living rat cells to create stingray robot which can pump like a heart. This new beginning can usher a completely new era in the field of medical science by changing the very dynamics of this field!
Parker, a Harvard professor of Bioengineering and applied physics, got the inspiration from watching his four-year old daughter petting the stingray at the aquarium. Stingray just moved a bit before coming in front of his daughter’s hand. He instantly thought about the possibility of creating a robotic stingray.
“[I thought], ‘let’s test a hypothesis that marine life forms that swim, that are designed to pump, they have the same design features as the heart.’ The heart is a muscular pump, nothing more.” said the Parker to Tech Insider.
Afterwards Parker thought to turn this innovative idea into a reality by reaching out to Sun Jin Park, a bioengineering Ph.d student at Stanford, to design the robot for him. He asked quite a few questions from him in his quest to create this robotic stingray :
- How do I make it swim?
- How do I make it move?
- How do I make it follow light?
- How do I make it right or left?
He genetically engineered the stingray to follow a blue light. The stingray itself is made of a silicone body and gold skeleton. They have inserted 200,000 genetically engineered rat heart muscles inside the bot to assist its movement by putting a gene into these cells so they contract when exposed to blue light in such a way that when light is flashed on the left, it will turn right.
The Stingray robot created after following these steps was a tiny bot of half an inch long but it has the power to swim in nutrient rich liquid that keeps the heart cells alive for more than six weeks.
“It elucidates more to me about the structural functional relationship in the heart,” Parker said of the robot stingray, adding that it provided greater insight on how heart the heart pumps and what it means when that function is disrupted by disease.
“There is a case to be made for the completely outside the box method when it comes to attacking a scientific problem,” Parker said. “Along the way we did something that broadened people’s minds.”
Source: Tech Insider