Stingray-inspired soft robot 'offers new medical applications'

Engineering

Bioengineers have developed a tissue-based soft robot inspired by the stingray, which could offer a range of potential medical applications.

Created by the UCLA Henry Samueli School of Engineering of Applied Science, the ten mm robot consists of four layers, including live heart cell tissue, two distinct types of specialised biomaterials for structural support, and flexible electrodes.

“A new type of tissue-based soft robot inspired by the biology of a stingray has been developed for potential medical applications.“

The researchers took inspiration from the biomechanics of the stingray, specifically the flattened body shape and side fins that start at the head and end at the base of the tail, which makes them ideal models for bio-electromechanical systems.

Their new robotic stingray is able to flap its fins when the electrodes contract the heart cells on the biomaterial scaffold. It is thought that it could be used in future bio-inspired robotic applications, as well as regenerative medicine and medical diagnostics.

UCLA bioengineering professor Ali Khademhosseini said: "The development of such bioinspired systems could enable future robotics that contain both biological tissues and electronic systems. This advancement could be used for medical therapies such as personalised tissue patches to strengthen cardiac muscle tissue for heart attack patients."

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