A group of scientists from Harvard University developed a biohybrid fish with stem cells from the human heart to help understand some key functions and, in the future, to be able to build an artificial heart.
These hybrid systems, which contain biological and artificial components, help to study the physiology of living organisms and to develop robotic solutions to solve different medical problems.
The artificial fish was created with a gelatinous hydrogel and on each side it has a layer of human heart muscle tissue that was made with stem cells.
This can move autonomously, since when one layer contracts, the other stretches, which activates a protein that is capable of triggering this process.
Those in charge of this work also incorporated a pacemaker to control the frequency and rhythm of the contractions by means of light pulses.
Thus, the human cells they used in the fish were genetically modified to respond to specific wavelengths of light. In this way, if they vary and pass, for example from red to blue, the movement can be activated.
According to the researchers, the muscle bilayer and the pacemaker can generate a coordinated and spontaneous heartbeat or movement of the muscles, with which the fish can swim for days and even months.
“Biohybrid fish equipped with intrinsic control strategies demonstrated self-sustained body-caudal swimming, highlighting the role of feedback mechanisms in muscular pumps such as the heart and muscles,” say the scientists.