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
BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC London Institute of Medical Sciences the website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biomedicine. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.
BPoD is also available in Catalan at www.bpod.cat with translations by the University of Valencia.