Almost a Jellyfish

August 16, 2012

Eva Gusnowski

The mesmerizing movements of the jellyfish may not stop someone from smoking, but they are hypnotizing nonetheless. Its no wonder then why scientists have decided to replicate its motion, from scratch.


Kevin Parker and his colleagues out of both Harvard and Caltech have generated an artificial medusa jellyfish. These “creatures” are not even robots that simply mimic the motion of their natural counterpart. Rather, they are biological mimics, using cells that are able to generate the motion, which is quite an unreal feat.

The team determined what types of movements were required for medusa jellyfish propulsion, and determined the pattern this required (its “stroke cycle”). Additionally they needed to find suitable materials that would allow the motion to be mimicked as closely as possible. What they decided on was a silicone base in what looks like the shape of a daisy, and coated this with neonatal rat cardiomyocytes. These young heart cells are capable of organizing themselves into aligned sheets, allowing their contractile force to be unidirectional, much like normal striated muscle that is found in the heart and skeletal muscle. The result: a “medusoid”. After a number of failed designs, the team finally hit on the right design and the right muscle contraction frequency to duplicate the jellyfish’s movement.


It’s unbelievable that we can create doppelgangers of Earth’s creatures in this way. Eventually, the thought is that if we can find out how a simple pump, such as the jellyfish, functions by watching it, that we may be able to create these items in the lab from the inside out. Maybe eventually moving to organs that can be used for transplant somewhere, someday.

But for now, the medusoid: part rat, part silicone, but all (simulated) jellyfish.



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