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Mobile ‘biohybrid’ robot harvested muscle tissue from mouse cells

Sometimes nature provides the best blueprint for building effective robots. It also provides the best materials. Billions of years of natural selection have built some pretty impressive machines, so you can’t really blame engineers for borrowing some inspiration from the world around them. The field of soft robotics in particular – with its flexible and compliant components – owes a lot to animal biology.

However, while these systems have soft forms, many of their components are still rigid like more traditional components. Researchers are working to introduce flexible elements to create movement for these soft robots. As MIT succinctly puts it, “Our muscles are nature’s perfect actuators.”

The team did more than just imitate muscle, however. Researchers at the school are classifying robots called “biohybrids” using living muscle tissue along with synthetic robotic parts.

MIT engineering professor Ritu Raman confirmed the process to TechCrunch, noting: “We built muscle tissue from mouse cells and then placed the muscle tissue on the robot’s skeleton. The muscles then act as the robot’s actuators – Every time a muscle contracts, the robot moves.”

The muscle fibers are attached to a “spring-like” device called a “bend” that acts as a kind of skeletal structure for the system. Biological muscle tissue can be difficult to work with and is often unpredictable. Tissue left in the dish will expand and contract as expected, but not in a controlled manner.

In order to be deployed in robotic systems, they must be reliable, predictable, and repeatable. In this case, this requires the use of structures that are compliant in one direction and resistant in another. Raman’s team found a solution in Professor Martin Culpepper’s MIT Fabrication Laboratory.

The curved part still needs to be adjusted according to the specifications of the robot, and a 1/100 structure is finally The stiffness of muscle tissue. “When a muscle contracts, all the force is converted into movement in that direction,” Raman points out. This is a huge magnification. “

The muscle fiber/bend system can be applied to a variety of robots of different sizes, but Raman said the team is focused on creating extremely small robots that could one day be operated inside the body to perform minimally invasive surgeries.

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