Researchers have obtained a stingray propelled by live muscle cells and controlled by light. A team reported on Thursday in the journal Science. This artificial stingray could one day lead to a synthetic heart.
It could be possible to build an artificial heart using pretty much the same techniques, according to experts. If you want to build an artificial heart, you’ve got to make small steps, so this new step forward was seen as good exercise.
Previous artificial hearts were a lot like mechanical pumps. However, an artificial heart made of living muscles would act more like a natural heart. It could have the ability to grow and change with time.
Scientists are now trying to replicate as much of the heart’s functions as possible. Even though a heart and a stingray could seem different, they both need to address problems involving motion in the fluid. A stingray needs to propel itself in the water, just like a heart needs to propel blood through the circulatory system, Kit Parker, scientist, explained.
The whole idea came to him some years ago, when visiting an aquarium with his daughter. There was an exhibit where visitors could touch rays swimming around. As his daughter put her hand in the water, the stingray came towards it, and with a quick flip, it smoothly went out of her palm.
The heart does this kind of split second adjustment with blood flow and pressure. The idea hit him “like a thunderbolt”. By building an artificial ray, he could learn to replicate the ability to respond instantly to a change in conditions.
As he explained the idea to a fellow scientist, he noticed shock and amazement. The idea was to rebuild a rat as an artificial stingray and to use light to guide it around.
The resulting synthetic Stingray is the size of a coin, has a transparent body made out of silicone and a skeleton made from gold. The ray is propelled by hundreds of thousands of muscle cells taken from a rat’s heart. The cells have been genetically modified to allow the hybrid to follow the blue light.
The creature was a success, and it replicated stingray motions to an amazing degree.
Image Source – Wikipedia