Jul 232012

Will be broadly applicable to the reverse engineering of muscular organs in humans.

Having roamed the seas for at least 500 million years and holding the title of the oldest multi-organ animal on the planet, jellyfish have certainly stood the test of time. So it’s probably not surprising to see various research groups looking to the gelatinous, umbrella-shaped animals for inspiration in a number of areas, including the development of ocean-going robots. Now researchers at Harvard University and the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) looking to gain a better understanding of how biological pumps such as the heart work, have created an artificial jellyfish from rat heart muscle and silicon.

Jellyfish propel themselves through the water by pulsing their bell-shaped bodies and it is this pumping motion, which is similar to the way in which the human heart moves blood throughout the body, that the researchers sought to emulate with their artificial jellyfish. By reverse engineering the motor function of a jellyfish, the team hoped to gain new insights into how such biological pumps work.

“It occurred to me in 2007 that we might have failed to understand the fundamental laws of muscular pumps,” said Parker, Tarr Family Professor of Bioengineering and Applied Physics at the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) and a core faculty member at the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard. “I started looking at marine organisms that pump to survive. Then I saw a jellyfish at the New England Aquarium, and I immediately noted both similarities and differences between how the jellyfish and the human heart pump.”

Read more . . .

via Gizmag – Darren Quick

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