Nobody thought that a Rat, some Gold and Silicone would develop into a small stingray one day, however, using 3D printing and genetic engineering, a group of scientists have carried out a research lately in order to create a biohybrid animal.
In order to move, this tiny swimmer uses the mesh rat heart muscle cells inside its silicone body to pulse, hence allowing the tiny flipper areas of its body to swim through water. Its skeleton is made up from 3D printed gold which permits it to store energy for movement.With the help of light cues, scientists can control this ‘nickel sized’ creature.
The use of rat heart cells is the key to the silicone stingray since they allowed it to be so tiny whilst being capable of moving on its own. It would have been very large as compared to now in case the motors had been employed. The muscles also help the tiny stingray by working as control system in addition to allowing it to move. The scientists were able to control it using flashing lights as the cells were engineered to be sensitive to light by means of genetic engineering. Shining a light on one side causes it to change direction and the speed of the flashing light manages the speed at which the creature moves.The cells were also shaped so that the mesh of cells would work with the shape of the stingray’s body.
Harvard’s Disease Biophysics Group led by Kevin Kit Parker, with a team of scientists from the University of Illinois, University of Michigan and Stanford Medical Center headed the project.
Despite the fact that such advancement is always thrilling to witness, it is also disturbing to some extent as several Hollywood movies have demonstrated very clearly that artificial creatures such as this stingray are never a good idea.
The question remains why is it so?
This project was really a research exercise without any doubt no matter how much I would be tempted yet frightened to have one as a pet. Artificial animals could indeed be very beneficial for a wide range of applications such as for treatments and surgery, although there are also several wider applications. It is hoped that the knowledge gained by this research will be able to help research development for the creation of artificial hearts. This tiny artificial animal could also be a step forward in the world of artificial cognition too.