Bioengineered Jellyfish Provides Insights into Next-Generation Heart Disease Treatments
Researchers have successfully tissue-engineered a jellyfish using a mix of silicone polymer and rat-heart cells. Scientists believe this discovery takes them a step closer to understanding how to reverse-engineer entire organs and finding novel treatments for patients with heart damage and failure.
The engineered, 1 cm-long jellyfish is comprised of a membrane with eight arm-like appendages. Within the membrane, rat heart-muscle cells were placed in a specific pattern to promote self-organization and accurately resemble the muscular architecture of a jellyfish. After placing the artificial jellyfish, named Medusoid, in a salty fluid capable of conducting electrical currents, researchers were able to trigger muscle contraction of the membrane by oscillating the voltage in the fluid. As a result of the muscular contractions, vortices (ring-shaped whirling masses of water) were created beneath the organism, allowing it to propel itself forward. This muscular-pump mechanism utilized by the jellyfish for locomotion is equivalent to that of the beating human heart.
The study findings also revealed that vortex formations generated by the engineered jellyfish are similar to the blood flow patterns entering the left ventricle of the heart. Studying the vortex patterns can provide more data about cardiac health and enable scientists to obtain a deeper understanding of the cardiovascular flow network and mechanisms.
(Source: Parker et al., 2012. Harvard University.)