Artificial jellyfish life made from rat cells on silicone. Image Source: Discovery.
From the Frankenfuture Files:
Will humans, whose organs will be repaired and implanted in this manner, still be fully human? You can see a film of the Franken-jelly-rat thing swimming around below the jump.A team of scientists has taken the heart cells of a rat, arranged them on a piece of rubbery silicon[e], added a jolt of electricity, and created a “Franken-jelly.” Just like a real jellyfish, the artificial jelly swims around by pumping water in and out of its bell-shaped body. Researchers hope the advance can someday help engineers design better artificial hearts and other muscular organs. ...
Bioengineers John Dabiri from the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, California, and Kevin Kit Parker from the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University adopted a motto: Copy nature, but not too much. “Some engineers build things out of concrete, copper and steel—we build things out of cells,” says Parker.
The duo and their colleagues stenciled out the ideal jellyfish shape on silicon[e], a material that would be sturdy but flexible, much like the jellyfish itself. They then coached rat muscle cells to grow in parallel bands on the silicon[e] and encased the cells with a stretchy material called elastomer. To get their artificial jellyfish, or medusoid, swimming, the researchers submerged it in a salty solution and ran an electric current through the water, jump-starting the rat cells. The mimic propelled itself rapidly in the water, swimming as effectively as a real jellyfish, the researchers report online today in Nature Biotechnology.
One commenter at the foot of the Wired article said: "wow, way to try to drum up a story. Shocker: when you stimulate muscle cells, they contract. Glad to see that great taxpayer money going towards this pointless research."
To this, someone responded: "Yep, slam down the whole thing to zapping cells, just like that frog in the lab you never got into cause your creationist parents didint want you to. Never mind that the issue here is isolated cell growth artificially arranged to perform a function outside its original specs. Gee, what would happen if we learnt how to make heart muscle cells grow around damaged tissue in an orderly way to re enable proper heart functions? God forbid we find out."
Another wrote: "As far as I can tell, this research was funded privately ... Seed funding for the Harvard Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering was provided by the university. In 2009, Harvard received the largest philanthropic gift in its history - $125 million - from Hansjörg Wyss for the above mentioned institute. As far as this research being useless, these quotes from the article might give you a clue as to how this particular project could be useful: 'Researchers hope the advance can someday help engineers design better artificial hearts and other muscular organs." "By studying how jellyfish manipulate liquids with their body, Parker says, scientists may be able to come up with more accurate ways to fix or even replace damaged heart valves.' My wife had to have her aortic valve replaced with an artificial valve due to a birth defect - research of this type is VERY meaningful to some people. Try to do two minutes of research before you write off important work with your politicized BS."
Yet another commenter wrote: "I, for one, welcome our new jelly-rat overlords."