There’s a lot you’d expect scientists to experiment with in treating heart disease, but jellyfish isn’t your common answer. Scientists have managed to build an artificial jellyfish out of rat heart muscles, discovery that aims to help fix damaged hearts.
At a first look it doesn’t seem that jellyfish and human hearts would have too much in common. But these animal creatures use a muscle pumping system to move underwater that is very similar to how a human heart pumps blood. The lab-made rat heart muscle jellyfish could give scientists the milestone discovery in treating heart disease.
Study author and CalTech professor John Dabiri told Business Week: “As engineers, we’re very comfortable building with plastics and metals, but in the long term, we think the more viable approach is to build these components out of biological materials”.
“The big picture here is to try to develop tools to improve biomedical technology – so think about repair of a damaged heart” added John Dabiri.
Kevin Kit Parker, Harvard bioengineering professor and scientist involved in the artificial jellyfish research, explained they were “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 pumps and the human heart” added Kevin Kit Parker.
The artificial jellyfish was called by its makers Medusoid. Scientists moved cells from rat heart muscles into a silicone base, where they grew into a jellyfish. The Medusoid was then subjected to an electric current shock that prompted it into moving just like the real underwater jellyfish. In a nutshell, Medusoid is the cornerstone in tissue engineering.
“What we’re trying to do is to become really good at building tissue” said Kevin Kit Parker. “This is just practice” the researcher said of the robot jellyfish. While it isn’t the exact copy of the organic jellyfish, the artificial Medusoid can lead to organic based pacemakers and other such devices for medical use.
Researchers in tissue engineering hope they will soon be able to produce an active replacement organ which will be able to work just as the real thing. It should absorb nutrients from the bloodstream and generate its own power. And as experts say, we’re still years away from that.