Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

Now in our 10th year of bringing you beautiful imagery from biomedical science every day

Hustling Muscle
17 May 2016

Hustling Muscle

From running and jumping to blinking or licking an ice cream – behind all of our movements, muscles flex. This tiny 'bio-bot' is an artificial device that moves by harnessing the power of living muscle cells. A ring of muscle cells (the fuzzy black strip) is looped around a 3D-printed resin skeleton that looks a bit like a crab moving sideways, only a 100 times smaller. The muscle has been genetically engineered to contract in response to a pulse of blue light, bending the bio-bot’s longest leg (right) more than its shorter leg (left). The resulting movement is more like a worm’s crawl than a crabby scuttle – and it can be steered by carefully aimed blasts of light. Blending living cells and mechanical parts, bio-bots have the potential to be re-designed as sensors, valves or tiny drug transporters with the aim of muscling in on life inside our bodies.

Written by John Ankers

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