Move over Spider Man, and get a load of . . . Jellyfish Rat?
This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science, saying
Sometimes truth is stranger than fiction--or at least blockbuster movies.
On a trip to an aquarium, Harvard bioengineer Kit Parker--no relation to Peter Parker--noticed something odd. The way jellyfish muscle contracts resembles how heart muscle contracts. Both are essentially just pumps that run on electrical stimulation.
So Parker recruited Caltech bioengineers to map out the muscle structure of a jellyfish. Then, without any CG special effects, the team replicated that structure using heart cells from a rat.
They attached the heart cells to a starfish-shaped sheet of silicone, put the sheet in a tank of water, and applied an electrical field. Voila! Jellyfish-Rat! Or as they call her, “Medusoid.”
Medusoid looks like a flower and swims like a jellyfish, but genetically she’s a rat.
Parker hopes to build future Medusoids with human heart cells. These could be used to test drugs that help hearts function better.
And to inspire their own blockbuster movie franchise! Leotards optional.
The Loh Down on Science is produced by LDOS Media Lab, with 89.3 KPCC Pasadena. And made possible by the generous support of the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.