A team of scientists have built robotic fish that are advancing heart disease treatment research. The school of robotic fish swam for three months powered only by lab-grown heart cells and nutrition added to the water.
In short, the scientists — based at Harvard, Emory University, and Georgia Tech — built the fish to save lives.
The body cannot replace heart cells or make new heart cells. So, being able to replace damaged heart cells with lab-grown heart tissue would save many lives.
The heart muscle cells on the robotic fish do what all heart muscle cells do:
The fish, known as “biohybrids” contain living and non-living parts.
The contracting muscle strip along one side causes the robotic fish tail to pull to the side. This tail motion propels the fish through the water.
The tail motion also stretches the muscle strip on the opposite side, thereby signaling it to contract. That moves the tail in the other direction.
In this way, the fish continually swim through the water.
Researchers already knew how to grow heart cells in the lab. What’s new here is that they have now proven lab-grown heart cells can maintain a rhythm over time. This opens up many more opportunities!
You can watch a video of the robotic fish swimming at NPR.
Image source: Michael Rosnach, Keel Yong Lee, Sung-Jin Park, Kevin Kit Parker via NPR