Scientists Engineer an Artificial Jellyfish From Rat Hearts


The Philip K. Dick novel upon which the film Blade Runner is based is called Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? The book features a world in which people hide their shame at not being able to afford real pets by using electric android pets to fool their friends and neighbors. Should you be in the mood to follow suit, you're now in luck as "science" has just created the world's first artificial, electrically powered jellyfish.

From an article in the Telegraph:

The tentacled artificial creature, made from silicon, has been dubbed "Medusoid" because of its resemblance to the snake-haired character from Greek mythology whose gaze turned people to stone.

It is able to mimic the swimming movement of a jellyfish thanks to muscle cells from rat hearts which were implanted onto its silicon frame and grown into a pattern similar to the muscles of a real jellyfish.

By applying an electric current to a container of conducting liquid, the scientists demonstrated they could "shock" the muscles into contracting so that it began to move through the water.

Why did they do this? The scientist leading the study said it is to aid in the field of tissue engineering, that if scientists can reverse-engineer a jellyfish, then one day, synthetic organs may be possible, as well. One of the scientists involved with the study, Harvard Professor Kevin Kit Parker, told the Telegraph about how similar a jellyfish's motor functions are to the pumping action of a heart.

"I saw a jellyfish at the New England Aquarium, and I immediately noted both similarities and differences between how the jellyfish pumps and the human heart. The similarities help reveal what you need to do to design a bio-inspired pump."

"The jellyfish provides a design algorithm for reverse engineering an organ's function."

Now if only science could get cracking on an electric Loch Ness Monster that we could use to ferry across the Boise River while the Friendship Bridge is out, we'd be set.