(WTVR) – Bioengineers have made an artificial jellyfish using silicone and muscle cells from a rat’s heart. The synthetic creature, dubbed a medusoid, looks like a flower with eight petals. When placed in an electric field, it pulses and swims exactly like its living counterpart.
Scientists from Harvard University and the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) joined forces on the “reverse-engineering project,” the details of which were published Sunday in the journal Nature Biotechnology.
“Morphologically, we’ve built a jellyfish. Functionally, we’ve built a jellyfish. Genetically, this thing is a rat,” Harvard biophysicist Kevin Kit Parker told Nature.
Parker’s lab works on creating artificial models of human heart tissues for regenerating organs and testing drugs, and the team built the medusoid as a way of understanding the “fundamental laws of muscular pumps”. It is an engineer’s approach to basic science: prove that you have identified the right principles by building something with them.
The team now plans to expand their research, first by creating a medusoid that utilizes human heart cells, and then by reverse-engineering other forms of aquatic life. They also have filed for a patent that would allow them to use their design as a way to test the effectiveness of medications, and reportedly are looking to improve the current artificial jellyfish by making it so that it can turn and even respond to its environment.