Robot jellyfish powered by rat heart cells: We like making bots. In recent years, scientists have developed robotic versions of fish, snakes, and even cheetahs that not only look like their biological counterparts but also swim, slip or run like them.
This is the latest small robot jellyfish to be published this week in the journal Nature Biotechnology. Developed by Celtic and Harvard bioengineers led by Kit Parker, it expands and contracts through the water. This isn’t the first robotic jelly – before that, we covered RoboJelly, the creation of Younes TDC, and others at the University of Texas at Dallas. Significant advances in Parker’s Meadowside are a source of strength.
RoboJelly uses artificial muscles that react with oxygen and hydrogen. For this new boot, Meadowside, Parker’s team made heart cells from mice in the very fabric of the machine (the rest of the little “jellyfish” is made of silicone). Meadowside floats in salt water, and heart cells contract when scientists transmit electricity through water. It stretches the body of the jelly, creating a power stroke that propels it through the water. Once the cells rest, the jellyfish spread again.
The idea was to use rat heart cells to create “engineered muscles” that could mimic the muscle structure of jellyfish. Next, researchers want to try to give Meadowside a simple “brain” to run alongside its locomotive capabilities.