Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Do I Smell A Plastic Rat?

Coming up for air?
I am not quite sure how I should react to the news that Caltech and Harvard University scientists in the US have bioengineered a "jellyfish" that can swim.

The 'creature' is made up of silicone polymers and rat heart cells.  That's a plastic ratus ratus to you and me. But unlike the often maligned Gunther Von Hagens variety, these plasticised animals actually have a life, but to paraphrase Star Trek, "Not as we know it".

The Medusoid, for that is its name, is designed to be a biological pump and to assist with heart surgery. 

The process according to my local newspaper, was to use a sheet of cultured rat heart muscle which contracts when electrically stimulated in a liquid environment.  It is the perfect raw material to create the jellyfish according to the researchers..

A silicone polymer was then used to fashion the sheet into a thin membrane that resembles a small jellyfish, with eight arm-like appendages.

Medusoid was then placed in container of salt water and shocked into swimming with synchronised muscle contractions that mimic those of real jellyfish

Kevin Kit Parker who was the project's bio-engineer has quipped that "The world needs less rats and more jellyfish, so I thought it would be cool to do a one-for-one swap".

Now he has his sights set on a different and larger animal to mimic using these processes -  perhaps a politician with a plastic brain or a banker with a plastic heart?  

Come to think of it, my banker already has one.

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