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Biotech Science

Artificial Jellyfish Built From Silicone and Rat Cells 61

Posted by timothy
from the all-natural-ingredients-right-on-the-label dept.
ananyo writes "Bioengineers have made an artificial jellyfish using silicone and muscle cells from a rat's heart. The synthetic creature, dubbed a medusoid, looks like a flower with eight petals. When placed in an electric field, it pulses and swims exactly like its living counterpart. The team now plans to build a medusoid using human heart cells. The researchers have filed a patent to use their design, or something similar, as a platform for testing drugs (abstract). 'You've got a heart drug?' says Kit Parker, a biophysicist at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, who led the work. 'You let me put it on my jellyfish, and I'll tell you if it can improve the pumping.'" The video that accompanies the text is at once beautiful and creepy.
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Artificial Jellyfish Built From Silicone and Rat Cells

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  • Offensive (Score:1, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward

    As a creationist, I find this offensive.

  • Other issues (Score:2, Insightful)

    Of course, you still need to test for side effects. Is a drug hepatotoxic?

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Well yes, thank, but no one was claiming this did away with all existing drug testing. This fills a gap: that is, what will actually happen if, all other things being equal, you introduced a drug to the cells of the heart? That answer can only currently be answered by human trials. This gives you data before you reach that stage.
      • I suspect that's a rather small part of drug testing. Would a heart in a human react the same way?

        • Re:Other issues (Score:4, Insightful)

          by Electricity Likes Me (1098643) on Sunday July 22, 2012 @10:32PM (#40733219)

          No way to know, but being able to observe "drug in large doses causes immediate cessation of pumping" would be a pretty important thing to find out - animal models have had some fairly notable failures when transferred to humans. [wikipedia.org]

          Being able to stick drugs in a model organism based on human tissue would be a huge development.

        • by DrYak (748999) on Monday July 23, 2012 @05:21AM (#40734591) Homepage

          It's a small part, but it's an important one. You need to check if a potential drug can make the muscle cell work differently (mostly for drugs targeting heart cells: pump stronger).
          A human heart could react in a different way. But on the other hand, this jelly fish would have a better reaction than a simple isolated cell on a petri dish.
          The petri dish cell is mostly only useful to test for basic molecular response (does the ion flux increase across the cell-wall transporter when the drug is bound to it ?)
          With platform like the jelly fish you can also test the effect - like cell contraction.

    • by camperslo (704715)

      Guard the beaches and power plants? If electric fields control their motion, they may be swimming/marching around soon. They'll build a secret base out of floating tsunami debris.

      I wonder what they'll do when high on drugs? I think there might be some student-movie plot material in the digital jellyfish border patrol.

      • Guarding power stations isn't an insane idea - Torness near Edinburgh was shut down because of a jellyfish swarm blocking the water intakes last year.
  • Overthinking it? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by wonkey_monkey (2592601) on Sunday July 22, 2012 @04:27PM (#40731523) Homepage

    'You've got a heart drug?' says Kit Parker, a biophysicist at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, who led the work. 'You let me put it on my jellyfish, and I'll tell you if it can improve the pumping.'"

    Couldn't they, I dunno, just put it in a rat?

    • Re:Overthinking it? (Score:5, Informative)

      by ananyo (2519492) on Sunday July 22, 2012 @04:42PM (#40731611)

      They'll do that too. This just lets you see one important aspect of the drug's activity really clearly and let's you get a little quantitative about the effects too. Admittedly, the really cool thing isn't the application but that they've built something that moves like a jellyfish when you apply an electric field across it in water.

      • by Trepidity (597)

        something that moves like a jellyfish when you apply an electric field across it in water

        Wonder what the approval process is like to get this into toy stores...

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      "You let me put it on my jellyfish, and I'll tell you if it can improve the pumping.'"

      Couldn't they, I dunno, just put it in a rat?"

      If they are in the rat-heart-disease-curing business, sure.
      This will have _human_ cells.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by mbunch5 (548430)

      Couldn't they, I dunno, just put it in a rat?

      He was talking about the next phase Medusoid, which he plans to make with human heart tissue. You didn't RTFA, did you?

  • by Anonymous Coward

    This is called a "metroid", not a "medusoid".

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Dalek [wikipedia.org] - EXTERMINATE!

      • That must have been one desperate dalek. They are helpless outside of their travel machines, and no sane dalek would never leave one willingly except for medical attention or machine repair - which, to a dalek, are the same thing.
    • by Hadlock (143607)

      Came here to post this. Submitter got his spelling all wrong.

  • Hmmmmmm (Score:4, Informative)

    by Vinegar Joe (998110) on Sunday July 22, 2012 @04:45PM (#40731629)

    I wonder how they taste fried........

  • There not real people! They're made of silicone and rats' hearts!

    This will definitely revolutionize the plastic surgery industry. Watch their silicone boobs dance in electric fields!

    This sounds like a National Enquirer title story to me.

    • This will definitely revolutionize the plastic surgery industry. Watch their silicone boobs dance in electric fields!

      Silicone boobs with mode select buttons? I for one welcome our new DOA physics enhanced overlords.

  • O brave new world, That has such people in't!

  • by bdwoolman (561635) on Sunday July 22, 2012 @05:32PM (#40731819) Homepage
    The jelly moves through the water. In the heart the water moves through the jelly. Same basic action. Imagine the same device being built using human cells, especially cells from the potential patient, this chimeric pump is a first step, perhaps a major step, in building a bioelectric replacement heart or even an auxiliary heart. They sussed that bioelectric pumps work by sending an electrochemical wave front through the tissue. In principal a jellyfish and a heart have a lot in common. Especially in some people.
    • by SuricouRaven (1897204) on Sunday July 22, 2012 @05:46PM (#40731875)
      There has been some research already that offers a potential there: Growing cells onto a temporary scaffold. It's still many years away from being able to grow a heart in a lab from a patient's own cells, but the possibility is there. Simpler organs are already in use that way - trachea, bladder, some others - but hearts are much more difficult. You'd still need a pacemaker though, an artificially grown heart isn't going to contain the required nerves to keep everything contracting in sync without one.
      • by iroll (717924) on Sunday July 22, 2012 @07:05PM (#40732221) Homepage

        Except that the heart's natural pacemakers aren't nervous, but specialized muscle cells:

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SA_node [wikipedia.org]

        The nervous system is capable of speeding the main pacemaker, but that connection isn't necessary to keep the heart beating. And the pacemakers are redundant, set at different frequencies. The highest frequency pacemaker drives the rest; should it fail, the next slower one takes over.

        • Same thing though - that biology evolved to grow a tiny embryonic heart and slowly make it bigger. Forcing cells to grow into a new adult heart using a scaffold isn't going to get even those specialised muscle cells aren't going to end up in the right places.
          • is arguably the big problem of biology. As a student I had a two-hour discussion on an airplane on the subject with one of the professors at my school -- in 1973. The goal is nearer thirty years later, but far from being realized. The work with scaffolds and viruses is awesome. But until this problem is solved I agree that you would certainly have to stimulate your bio-synthetic heart with a pacemaker.

            And, hey, I'm no spring chicken. Any biologists out there working on this better log off Slashdot and

            • I also understand that you need the scaffold to be somewhat flexible - those cells beat, and the movement is actually one of the signals determining differentiation. Not a huge problem for growing somewhat-misshapen rat hearts, but a serious issue for trying to replicate something as large as a human heart.
  • "The team now plans to build a medusoid using human heart cells."

    Now I know what will be on SciFi Channel this Fall. On the bright side it'll be a break from all the ghost shows and wrestling.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Finally! Science has found a way to bridge the gap between aquatic life outside of the vertebrates, and members of order rodentia. Soon, the seas will team with jellyrats, and sewers will overflow with rodentfish! A glorious day!

    Dr. Ichthius will be very pleased. Yes. Very. Pleased.

    Muahahahah!!!

    (I decided to pass on the opportunity to write "Well, I for one WELCOME our new Jellyrat overlords...)

  • by sesshomaru (173381) on Sunday July 22, 2012 @07:08PM (#40732237) Journal

    Ok, who wouldn't want to tell people that they worked on "The Medusoid Project?"

  • I'm waitin' for the Peanutbutter & Jelly fish...
  • As a human being, this announcement is without a doubt extra creepy. However, as a scientist, it's fricking awesome! As a mad scientist, I'm giving it three thumbs up.

    Takes a moment to get past the "we made an artificial jellyfish (WHY? Don't we have enough of those transparent, swimming, stinging masses of doom?)," and to get onto the real meat of the article: artificial hearts that can be used to test the effectiveness of various experimental drugs without putting human beings at risk.

    For a moment there,

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