“We took a rat apart and rebuilt it as a jellyfish”

Using rat heart cells and silicone polymer, researchers have bioengineered a “jellyfish” that knows how to swim.

The odd jellyfish mimic, dubbed a “Medusoid” by its creators, is more than a curiosity. It’s a natural biological pump, just like the human heart. That makes it a good model to use to study cardiac physiology, said study researcher Kevin Kit Parker, a bioengineer at Harvard University.

“The idea is to look at a muscular pump other than the heart or other muscular organ and see if there are some fundamental similarities, or design principles, that are conserved across them,” Parker told LiveScience. “This study revealed that there are…”

The ingredients were rat heart muscle cells and a thin silicone film…Along with researchers from the California Institute of Technology, he and his team engineered the cells and silicone in a pattern that mimicked the structure of a real jellyfish. They then stuck the creature in a tank full of electrically conducting fluid and zapped it with current.

The result was a swimming, pulsating creature that acts not unlike a real jellyfish

Parker is interested in using the Medusoids for cardiovascular drug development and as a step in new designs for artificial hearts. He also has plans to go bigger.

The next step, he said, is to “pick another animal that has a more difficult anatomy and function, and build it. Give me a year or two!”

My kind of scientist. As interested in the next challenge as the success of his last work.

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