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Sunday, July 22, 2012

Lab-Made Jellyfish Hints at Fix for Damaged Hearts

Wall Street Journal Guatam Niak


Photo: Caltech and Harvard University An image of the 'Medusoid' jellyfish swimming in ocean-like saltwater.

Researchers have designed a bioengineered jellyfish that can swim, an early step toward potentially finding a way to make fresh tissue for patients with damaged hearts.

The lab-made jellyfish is created with a mix of silicone and rat-heart cells. Although it isn't a living organism, the robot's muscular structure closely resembles that of a real jellyfish, enabling it to swim freely through water. Scientists hope that such techniques will make it possible to harvest cells from one organism and then reorganize them in sophisticated ways to make a bioengineered system for human use, such as a heart pacemaker that wouldn't require battery power.

Details of the experiment were published Sunday in the journal Nature Biotechnology.

"What we're trying to do is become really good at building tissue" for medical use, said Kevin Kit Parker, a bioengineer at Harvard University and co-author of the study. "This is just practice" in the quest to reverse-engineer entire organs, he added.

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