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Scientists Build Robotic Fish Powered by Human Heart Cells

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Something fishy is sniffing at Harvard University. The Scientists from this renowned institution have created an artificial fish with a flapping tail. The tailpiece however is powered by human heart cells. This attempt is taken to explore innovative trends in cardiac research and associated treatments.

Scientists at Harvard University join hands with the team of Emory University to engineer a “biohybrid fish”.The fish, infact, is made of plastic, gelatin, paper, and two strips of living heart muscle cells. The human heart muscles are derived from stem cells. These cells generate contractions that pull the fish’s tail. A side-to-side swaying movement thus helps the fish to swim.

The study is published in the journal Science a few weeks ago. It details that this back-and-forth contraction that made the fish swim refers to the movement of the beating heart for 108 days. The total beating count is equivalent to 38 million beats. This experiment will help the researchers to build a long-lasting human cardiac stem-cell-derived pump.

One of the authors of the study, Kit Parker, told the Guardian on Monday.

“The heart is extremely complex and it’s not enough to mimic the anatomy, one must recreate the biophysics in order to have the robust behavior required of building engineered hearts for children born with malformed hearts.”

This development has aided scientists to delve deeply into cardiovascular physiology and associated pathologies. For example to investigate different aspects of arrhythmia. It would also help the bioengineers to introduce improved pacemaker technology in cardiovascular treatments. Moreover, the study could ultimately lead to the development of an artificial heart for transplant.

Professor Parker told the Guardian,

“By replicating the biophysics of the heart into this fish, we were activating various processes within these cells that are designed to help them sustain themselves, we are hoping that in our next endeavor, we will keep these cells and these tissues alive much longer than even four and a half months.”

Luckily, the muscle cells reportedly grew stronger with exercise. This feature shows that in-depth research would help to implement the concept of artificial contractions in heart failure treatments.