Future Technology: Structure & Biorobotic Stingray

Posted on 15/08/2016 by cbenson in Industry
As a follow-up to our previous article "Future Robot Technology", we are excited to see that researchers at Harvard University have unveiled a true bio-mechanical creation:
The robotic stingray uses muscles made out of rat heart cellsA tiny robotic stingray with silicone skin and a gold skeleton uses muscles made out of rat heart cells to wiggle its fins.
This new artificial creation (about the size of a penny) includes both living cells (around 200,000 cardyomyocyte cells) which are engineered to respond to light, and arranged in such a way as to create motion. The rest of the "stingray-like" creation is made up of an elastomer body and gold skeleton. Each side of the  ray reacts to different light waves, which allows it to "swim" and turn. Abstract:
Inspired by the relatively simple morphological blueprint provided by batoid fish such as stingrays and skates, we created a biohybrid system that enables an artificial animal—a tissue-engineered ray—to swim and phototactically follow a light cue. By patterning dissociated rat cardiomyocytes on an elastomeric body enclosing a microfabricated gold skeleton, we replicated fish morphology at Embedded Image scale and captured basic fin deflection patterns of batoid fish. Optogenetics allows for phototactic guidance, steering, and turning maneuvers. Optical stimulation induced sequential muscle activation via serpentine-patterned muscle circuits, leading to coordinated undulatory swimming. The speed and direction of the ray was controlled by modulating light frequency and by independently eliciting right and left fins, allowing the biohybrid machine to maneuver through an obstacle course.
Kit Parker and his colleagues at the Disease Biophysics Group have a range of specialities including biologists, biomechanics, biophysics & self-assembly, material science and cell & tissue engineering. Parker's ultimate goal is to create an artificial heart. Want to know more? Check out:
  • Mechanotransduction: Role of mechanical stress, cell shape, and cell architecture on cell function.
  • Tissue Engineering: Development of tissue grafts and scaffolds with unique structures and functions.
  • Nanotextiles: Developing new techniques for mimicking ECM networks for regenerative medicine and other industrial applications.
  • Microdevices: Designing and building microscale soft biological constructs which retain their unique biological functionalities.
This is a very different approach compared to creating a mechanical equivalent (yes, what you see in the videos below are indeed robots):
Where do you think robotics is headed? Give your opinion in the comments section below. Sources: https://www.seas.harvard.edu/directory/kkparker https://www.sciencenews.org/article/light-activated-heart-cells-help-guide-robotic-stingray Phototactic guidance of a tissue-engineered soft-robotic ray: http://science.sciencemag.org/content/353/6295/158.full  
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