Scientists in the US have created a free swimming artificial jellyfish.
The team members built the replica using silicone as a base on which to grow heart muscle cells that were harvested from rats.
They used an electric current to shock the Medusoid into swimming with synchronised contractions that mimic those of real jellyfish.
The advance, by researchers at Caltech and Harvard University, is reported in the journal Nature Biotechnology.
The finding serves as a proof of concept for reverse engineering a variety of muscular organs and simple life forms.
Because jellyfish use a muscle to pump their way through the water, the way they function - on a very basic level - is similar to that of a human heart.
"I started looking at marine organisms that pump to survive," said Kevin Kit Parker, a professor of bioengineering and applied physics at Harvard.
"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.
"The similarities help reveal what you need to do to design a bio-inspired pump."
The work also points to a broader definition of "synthetic life" in an emerging field of science that has until now focused on replicating life’s building blocks, say the researchers.
Prof Parker said he wanted to challenge the traditional view of synthetic biology which is "focused on genetic manipulations of cells". Instead of building just a cell, he sought to "build a beast".
The two groups at Caltech and Harvard worked for years to understand the key factors that contribute to jellyfish propulsion, including the arrangement of their muscles, how their bodies contract and recoil, and how fluid dynamics helps or hinders their movements.
Once these functions were well understood, the researchers began to reverse engineer them.
They used silicone to fashion a jellyfish-shaped body with eight arm-like appendages.
Next, they printed a pattern made of protein onto the "body" that resembled the muscle architecture of the real animal.
They grew the heart muscle cells on top, with the protein pattern serving as a road map for the growth and organisation of the rat tissue. This allowed them to turn the cells into a coherent swimming muscle.
When the researchers set the Medusoid free in a container of electrically conducting fluid, they shocked the Medusoid into swimming with synchronised contractions. The muscle cells even started to contract a bit on their own before the electrical current was applied.
"This video shows the launch and swimming of a tissue-engineered jellyfish, or "Medusoid," compared to real jellyfish, and the intermediate design steps. The construct is made from silicone rubber and powered by lab-grown heart tissue. Contraction of the Medusoid, at a frequency of 1-2Hz, can be triggered by external electrical field stimulation. The Medusoid was built in a proof-of-concept study at Caltech and Harvard for designing muscular pumps for biomedical application."
Boston Bomber Carjacking Unravels 2014 03 11 An exclusive WhoWhatWhy investigation has found serious factual inconsistencies in accounts provided by the only witness to the alleged confession of the Boston Marathon bombing suspects.
Why does this matter? Because this witness is the sole source for the entire publicly accepted narrative of who was behind the bombing and its aftermath—and why these events occurred.
In case we’ve forgotten how convoluted ...
3 Years On: Events, Questions Mark Fukushima Anniversary 2014 03 11 Three years on and the extent of the environmental, human and economic repercussions of the Fukushima incident continue to reveal themselves. Fukushima “fallout” is both literal in terms of radioactive materials, and figurative on a global scale. The politics and opinions around the nuclear issue are far from settled.
In Japan anti-nuclear sentiment runs high, with protesters recently marking the anniversary ...
Real Ukraine Issue: Rogue Reactors and Putin’s ’No-Bama’ Zone in Crimea 2014 03 11
Another week into the ‘Crimea Crisis’ and the kamakizi war rhetoric is still spewing out of Washington, London and their multinational corporate media arms.
You’d think it was Red Dawn all over again, only it’s not.
It all sound very impressive and pumped up in the news rooms, but is there any real substance in it – other than keeping oil and ...
Spraying Chemtrails to ’Reduce Pollution’ 2014 03 11
The noxious smog choking Chinese cities is globally notorious, with photos showing the grey darkness that swallows citizens as they try to go about their lives. The thick clouds sometimes turn day to night, and wreak havoc for those with respiratory ailments. Reports of how toxic and damaging the smog is to humans and the environment completes the nightmare scenario, ...