Today on the menu, the recipe for your very own biological soft bot! Always wanted a army of self walking skeletons? Have a look at the how to step by step guide by Rashid Bashir's research group. What sounds like a DIY kit for some free time fun is supposed to help scientists around the world to find answers to questions on the future of health and environment. Manufacturing technologies, such as 3D printing, in combination with developed biological (living) materials, have the ability to improve the construction of complicated 3D structures, taking the next step in the search of enhanced life.
Inspired by the architecture of the in-vivo muscle system, the research group grew genetically engineered muscle tissue that responds to light, in order to combine it with the 3D printed bio bot skeleton. After growing on the skeleton, the muscle started moving by its intrinsic power while reacting to light impulses. Resulting in a walking skeleton.
The research paper states: "Biological machines consisting of cells and biomaterials have the potential to dynamically sense, process, respond and adapt to environmental signals in real time". Which opens up powerful opportunities for the creation of complex machines that one day might be able to self-heal, organize and assemble.
Even though the picture of such a walking piece of flesh might be scary, this new achievement is a step forward in regenerative medicine and also teaches how to profit from both biology and synthetical materials, in order to create less rigid and more animal-like machines. The amount of robots coming into our lives causes concerns on the environmental consequences. Self-powered biodegradable machines could solve this issue.
Source: Engineering at Illinois. Image: 3ders