As heart muscle cells grown on iridescent butterfly wings contract it causes synchronous shifts in colours – a way of monitoring the cell mechanics
Both beautiful and practical, the dazzling wings of Morpho butterflies have already inspired many innovations, from self-cleaning surfaces to solar technologies, and could now find a new biomedical application. The secret of their stunning iridescence lies in structural coloration, produced by the interaction of light with complex nanoscale ridges on their wing scales. Scientists recently harnessed these remarkable surfaces to develop a biosensor monitoring the behaviour of heart muscle cells, or cardiomyocytes. Essentially, they found that cardiomyocytes could be cultured on modified wings of Morpho menelaus (pictured), and recover their intrinsic beating rhythm, expanding and contracting. These contractions cause the wings to bend, changing the angle at which light hits the nanostructures on their scales, so altering the colour of the wings. As these colour changes will reveal any variation in the cells’ behaviour, this system could provide a simple tool to test the responses of cardiomyocytes to different drugs.
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.