Sunday, July 21st, 2019

Biohybrid Robots Built From Living Tissue Start to Take Shape

Published on August 11, 2016 by   ·   1 Comment

Editor’s Note: We have featured many articles over the years warning about scientific and military developments that were trending toward the merger of robotics with nature, typically in the areas of war and surveillance. Running parallel to this are developments in environmental science and health that employ nanotechnology and biorobotics which are beginning to fundamentally change how we define the natural world. This mission has been a cornerstone of Transhumanism, best outlined in books such as Ray Kurzweil’s The Singularity is Near, where a target date of 2045 is theorized for humanity to fully merge with machines as the next stage of evolution beyond biology; Kurzweil has labeled this process as Human Body 2.0. It is, therefore, instructive to listen to the experts themselves as they document this path so that we can stay informed and become involved in the discussion of whether or not certain boundaries should be broken. As we highlighted recently, there is a genetic arms race developing which already is being waged without much public debate. Restrictions are set to be lifted for the development of chimeras, for example: human-animal hybrids. In the article below you will read about how the next generation of robots also will be hybrids that utilize natural processes to supposedly enhance the abilities of both. These experiments are not being done on some remote island populated by mad scientists and evil geniuses, but most times right out in the open at our nation’s universities. We should be willing to take a close look at what is being studied and determine quickly if the potential consequences are worth continuing these studies at the current pace.)

Think of a traditional robot and you probably imagine something made from metal and plastic. Such “nuts-and-bolts” robots are made of hard materials. As robots take on more roles beyond the lab, such rigid systems can present safety risks to the people they interact with. For example, if an industrial robot swings into a person, there is the risk of bruises or bone damage.

Researchers are increasingly looking for solutions to make robots softer or more compliant – less like rigid machines, more like animals. With traditional actuators – such as motors – this can mean using air muscles or adding springs in parallel with motors. For example, on a Whegs robot, having a spring between a motor and the wheel leg (Wheg) means that if the robot runs into something (like a person), the spring absorbs some of the energy so the person isn’t hurt. The bumper on a Roomba vacuuming robot is another example; it’s spring-loaded so the Roomba doesn’t damage the things it bumps into.

But there’s a growing area of research that’s taking a different approach. By combining robotics with tissue engineering, we’re starting to build robots powered by living muscle tissue or cells. These devices can be stimulated electrically or with light to make the cells contract to bend their skeletons, causing the robot to swim or crawl. The resulting biobots can move around and are soft like animals. They’re safer around people and typically less harmful to the environment they work in than a traditional robot might be. And since, like animals, they need nutrients to power their muscles, not batteries, biohybrid robots tend to be lighter too.

Tissue-engineered biobots on titanium molds. Karaghen Hudson and Sung-Jin Park, CC BY-ND

BUILDING A BIOBOT

Researchers fabricate biobots by growing living cells, usually from heart or skeletal muscle of rats or chickens, on scaffolds that are nontoxic to the cells. If the substrate is a polymer, the device created is a biohybrid robot – a hybrid between natural and human-made materials.

If you just place cells on a molded skeleton without any guidance, they wind up in random orientations. That means when researchers apply electricity to make them move, the cells’ contraction forces will be applied in all directions, making the device inefficient at best.

So to better harness the cells’ power, researchers turn to micropatterning. We stamp or print microscale lines on the skeleton made of substances that the cells prefer to attach to. These lines guide the cells so that as they grow, they align along the printed pattern. With the cells all lined up, researchers can direct how their contraction force is applied to the substrate. So rather than just a mess of firing cells, they can all work in unison to move a leg or fin of the device.

Read More HERE

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Readers Comments (1)

  1. Pat Leach Pat Leach says:

    What could go wrong??




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