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Volume 90 Issue 31 | p. 42 | Concentrates
Issue Date: July 30, 2012

Building A Jellyfish

Researchers use polymer sheets and tissue engineering to make mimics of the marine animals that swim with the same stroke
Department: Science & Technology
News Channels: Biological SCENE
Keywords: biomimetics, tissue engineering, jellyfish, medusoid
BUILDING A JELLYFISH MIMIC WITH TISSUE ENGINEERING
Researchers at Caltech and Harvard have made a polymer sheet that swims like a jellyfish. In this video, Janna Nawroth, a graduate student at Caltech, explains what inspired the team and talks about how the researchers optimized their design with a printed protein and some rat heart cells.
Credit: Janna Nawroth/C&EN/YouTube
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Tissue-engineered jellyfish (right) are stripped-down, polymeric versions of the real thing (left).
Credit: Nat. Biotechnol. (left) Harvard U & Caltech (right)
Tissue-engineered jellyfish (right) are stripped-down versions of the real thing (left), having only components needed for propulsive swimming.
 
Tissue-engineered jellyfish (right) are stripped-down, polymeric versions of the real thing (left).
Credit: Nat. Biotechnol. (left) Harvard U & Caltech (right)

The list of creatures that have inspired scientists to build synthetic, or biomimetic, devices just got longer, according to a report in Nature Biotechnology (DOI: 10.1038/nbt.2269). John O. Dabiri of Caltech, Kevin Kit Parker of Harvard University, and coworkers have engineered a thin, eight-armed polymeric sheet to swim like a jellyfish. To accomplish the feat, the team mapped the pumping motions of a juvenile jellyfish while it was swimming. Then the researchers used the collected information to build a mimic from three simple components, says Janna C. Nawroth, a graduate student at Caltech and lead author of the report. The first of these parts is a spin-coated 22-┬Ám-thick polydimethylsiloxane film. Onto that layer, the team printed the protein fibronectin in a pattern simulating jellyfish muscle-fiber alignment. Finally, the researchers seeded rat heart cells onto the structure and incubated them until they formed electrically conductive tissue. The resulting mimic, called a medusoid, swims like a jellyfish when exposed to a pulsed electrical field. Aside from being a model system to inspire the development of future tissue-engineered organs that pump, Nawroth says, these medusoids might eventually be used to test drugs for cardiac disease.

 
Chemical & Engineering News
ISSN 0009-2347
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