Researchers in Tokyo are using living tissue for robotic applications

Science / Tech
living tissue

Perhaps one day in the future we will see a combination of robotics and living tissue working as one on a larger scale?

Image used for illustration not actual image from research

Researchers in Tokyo say they are coming closer to creating complex “lifelike” body parts consisting of living tissue and robotics. These researchers have successfully used living tissue from rats in conjunction with robotics. The researchers are calling this a biohybrid design and the prototype is meant to simulate human finger movements. Check out the video below to see exactly what the researchers came up with.

“If we can combine more of these muscles into a single device, we should be able to reproduce the complex muscular interplay that allows hands, arms, and other parts of the body to function,” says study author Shoji Takeuchi, a mechanical engineer at the University of Tokyo. “Although this is just a preliminary result, our approach might be a great step toward the construction of a more complex biohybrid system.”

The research group began looking at living muscle tissue because plastic and metal provided a limited range of movement and flexibility. To grow their robot’s muscles, they layered hydrogel sheets filled with myoblasts—rat muscle cells—on a robotic skeleton. The grown muscle is then stimulated with an electric current that forces it to contract.

There is one caveat to this at the moment though. Since this is living tissue, the robot can only function in water otherwise the tissue will not survive.

In his previous work using living tissue in robots, Takeuchi had issues with the muscles shrinking after use to the point that they no longer functioned. This time, he layered muscles parallel to each other to simulate what’s known as an antagonistic pair.

This is really interesting research and the use cases are numerous. This is one we’re looking forward to seeing where it goes. Be sure to hit the source links below if you want to read more in-depth coverage of this research.

What do you think of this biohybrid research? Let us know in the comments below or on Google+, Twitter, or Facebook.

  Source: National Geographic  Source: Science Robotics
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