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polympart: Scientists have built a school of robot fish that are powered through the water by human heart cells. Researchers at Harvard University developed the bio-hybrid fish, which is based on a zebrafish, from plastic, paper, gelatin and two strips of living heart muscle.

One strip of the muscle is on the left side of the fish’s body, and another on the right side, so when one side contracts, the other stretches, and vice-versa, causing the tail fin to create a swimming motion.

“My interest is in paediatric heart disease,” Kit Parker, a Harvard bioengineer and a lead researcher of the project, told The Daily Beast. “I want to build a tissue engineered heart for a sick kid born with a malformed heart. But I can’t put that heart into a living child without having ever tested it myself.”

The scientist says that he was inspired by jellyfish after taking his daughter to the New England Aquarium. “I’m looking at it, and thinking ‘it pumps, it looks like a heart pump,’” he said.

“I’m thinking, ‘I could build that damn thing.’” Scientists first built a biohybrid jellyfish that swam using the heart cells of a rat, followed by a biohybrid stingray.

The latest robotic fish were assembled by a team of scientists including Keel Yong Lee of Harvard and sung-Jin Park of Emory University and Georgia Tech, and announced in a new paper published in Science. “These are principles borrowed from the human heart,” added Dr Parker. 

“And the amazing thing is that this was powered on its own. It swims faster than anything else that we’ve ever built.”The experiment lasted for 108 days before it was terminated by the researchers.

Dr Parker, who says his team was previously investigated by the US Attorney General’s office in Boston over misuse of grant funding from the National Institutes of Health, now plans to build artificial heart tissue and simulate the chambers of a human heart.

The investigation was dropped after NIH scientists wrote papers on the merits of the experiments. “If you’re working outside of the box, not everyone is going to receive you with open arms,”he admitted“But there’s a difference between being unconventional and being crazy. And I think now people are starting to catch on.

“So the first priority is to stay out of the big house. And then we can do some science. The long-term goal here is to save some sick kids.”

source: https://www.independent.co.uk

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