This Artificial Jellyfish Was Built Using Rat Cells

Scientists have managed to build an artificial jelly fish entirely from rat cells, which can pulse and swim when exposed to an electric field, just like its living counterpart.

Taking cells from the heart of a rat, the team of scientists from Harvard University were able to grow a single layer of muscle on top of a patterned sheet of polydimethylsiloxane. The result mimics the bell of a juvenile moon jelly — a type of jelly of fish — which propels itself by sending electric signals through the structure to make it contract rapidly.

When exposed to an electric field, the artificial creature — referred to as medusoid — contracts rapidly, in the same way as the jellyfish does during its power stroke. The sheet of elastic silicone on which the muscle is built then pulls the medusoid back into shape ready for the next stroke. If you're unconvinced, watch the video above: this thing really does look just like a real jellyfish as it moves through the water. The research is published in Nature Biotechnology. Kit Parker, lead researcher on the project, explained to Nature:

"Morphologically, we've built a jellyfish. Functionally, we've built a jellyfish. Genetically, this thing is a rat... We took a rat apart and rebuilt it as a jellyfish."

When people usually talk about synthetic life, it's at the cellular level. This time round, the scientists have built an actual animal. While it's a pretty cool scientific party trick, the idea is in fact to use the little creatures for testing drugs in the future. And there's more come, too, because Parker is already planning how to build a synthetic octopus in the same way. Welcome to the future. [Nature Biotechnology via Nature]

Image by Harvard University/Caltech


Comments

    First sea monkeys now this! I really don't want a planet of the apes situation happening here.

    This is pretty lame. Running a current through a dead frog makes its muscles convulse. If you grow muscle tissue in the shape of a worm you could pretend you engineered a worm until you remember that's a worm or jellyfish consists of a bit more than a manufactured muscle convulsion.

      I think it's more the fact that muscle tissue was grown onto an artificial substance to perform a function it wasn't intended for.

    Hang on.

    Without a brain and nervous system to create it's own electrical fields, it's not an ''actual animal'', any more than a disembodied muscle from my arm would be an actual animal.

    Both are just lumps of tissue contracting due to external electrical stimulus. In this case, they've built the tissue into the shape of a jellyfish, and put it on a springy plastic skeleton.

    The future is a little way off yet.

      There are animals that don't have brains. Like the Sponge for example, or Jellyfish. No brain and no central nervous system.

    and the world asks, why?

    Why? I guess, for a race with robots to replace us worker drones.

    Once again, people are always question why scientists "waste" their time on "little", "meaningless" experiments without thinking about how advances in science throughout time came about.

      questioning*

    Would love to see this thing at over 9000Hz

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