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Lab-Made Jellyfish Hints at Heart Fix

Researchers have designed a bioengineered jellyfish that can swim, an early step in scientists' quest for a way to make fresh tissue for patients with damaged hearts.

The lab-made jellyfish is created with a mix of silicone and rat-heart cells. Although it isn't a living organism, the robot's muscular structure closely resembles that of a real jellyfish, enabling it to swim freely through water.

Scientists hope that such techniques will make it possible to harvest cells from one organism and then reorganize them in sophisticated ways to make a bioengineered system for human use, such as a heart pacemaker that wouldn't require battery power.

Details of the experiment were published Sunday in the journal Nature Biotechnology.

"What we're trying to do is become really good at building tissue" for medical use, said Kevin Kit Parker, a bioengineer at Harvard University and a co-author of the study. "This is just practice" in the quest to reverse-engineer entire organs, he added.

Tissue-engineering experiments often rely on trial and error. Dr. Parker said he wants to bring to the field the same quantitative rigor and precision that civil engineers use in building bridges.

Dr. Parker spent years searching for a good model for the human heart. While watching a jellyfish at Boston's New England Aquarium, he was struck by how the creature used a muscle to pump its way through water, a mechanism similar to a beating heart.

His Harvard team linked up with researchers at the California Institute of Technology, and the two groups first embarked on a detailed study of jellyfish propulsion: the complex arrangement of muscles; the contracting and recoiling motion of the bodies; and the fluid dynamics resulting from their swimming motion.

The engineers used a silicone polymer to build a centimeter-long jellyfish consisting of a membrane with eight armlike appendages. They overlaid muscle cells, obtained from a rat heart, on this membrane in a particular pattern. "We coaxed them to self-organize so that they matched the [muscle] architecture of a jellyfish precisely," Dr. Parker said.

The robot, named "Medusoid," was placed in salty fluid that can conduct electrical currents. When the engineers oscillated the voltage in the fluid, the muscle-coated membrane began to contract in a synchronized manner. (By contrast, a real jellyfish obtains nutrients by feeding on plankton, eggs, larvae, small fish and other jellyfish, which then enables specialized tissue to electrically activate the muscular contraction.)

The muscular contraction creates vortices—doughnut-shaped rings of water—below the creature's body. For jellyfish, vortices propel it forward and push food toward its mouth.

The main difference between the two creatures "is that the real jellyfish can go and get nutrients and ours can't," said John Dabiri, a co-author of the study and a bioengineer at Caltech.

The engineers now plan to design a jellyfish that can gather food on its own. They also want to include specialized tissue, so that the creature can activate the muscular contractions internally, as a real jellyfish does.

The current version of Medusoid moves in a simple manner and can't really turn or maneuver. To achieve that, the engineers will have to include multiple cell types and devise a system that allows the lab-built creature to sense its environment and use an internal "decision-making circuit" to pick different behaviors.

While those challenges are significant, some practical benefits may be more easily attained. Drug companies often test new heart drugs on cardiac tissue, and the jellyfish—which mimics a beating human heart—could serve as an alternative model. "I could put your drug in the jellyfish and tell you if it's going to work," said Dr. Parker.

The study of vortices already has inspired some new areas for medical research. For example, when blood enters the left ventricle of the pumping heart, it creates a rotating fluid mass that is similar to the vortices created by a swimming jellyfish. The vortices in the heart can be measured with ultrasound.

In 2006, Dr. Dabiri co-authored a study, involving 120 participants, which suggested that the process of vortex-ring formation could offer important clues about cardiac health. "You can tell healthy from less-healthy hearts" by studying the vortices, Dr. Dabiri said.

Source: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10000872396390444097904577539081426736516.html

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Founded by Russian entrepreneur Dmitry Itskov in February 2011 with the participation of leading Russian specialists in the field of neural interfaces, robotics, artificial organs and systems.

The main goals of the 2045 Initiative: the creation and realization of a new strategy for the development of humanity which meets global civilization challenges; the creation of optimale conditions promoting the spiritual enlightenment of humanity; and the realization of a new futuristic reality based on 5 principles: high spirituality, high culture, high ethics, high science and high technologies. 

The main science mega-project of the 2045 Initiative aims to create technologies enabling the transfer of a individual’s personality to a more advanced non-biological carrier, and extending life, including to the point of immortality. We devote particular attention to enabling the fullest possible dialogue between the world’s major spiritual traditions, science and society.

A large-scale transformation of humanity, comparable to some of the major spiritual and sci-tech revolutions in history, will require a new strategy. We believe this to be necessary to overcome existing crises, which threaten our planetary habitat and the continued existence of humanity as a species. With the 2045 Initiative, we hope to realize a new strategy for humanity's development, and in so doing, create a more productive, fulfilling, and satisfying future.

The "2045" team is working towards creating an international research center where leading scientists will be engaged in research and development in the fields of anthropomorphic robotics, living systems modeling and brain and consciousness modeling with the goal of transferring one’s individual consciousness to an artificial carrier and achieving cybernetic immortality.

An annual congress "The Global Future 2045" is organized by the Initiative to give platform for discussing mankind's evolutionary strategy based on technologies of cybernetic immortality as well as the possible impact of such technologies on global society, politics and economies of the future.


Future prospects of "2045" Initiative for society


The emergence and widespread use of affordable android "avatars" controlled by a "brain-computer" interface. Coupled with related technologies “avatars’ will give people a number of new features: ability to work in dangerous environments, perform rescue operations, travel in extreme situations etc.
Avatar components will be used in medicine for the rehabilitation of fully or partially disabled patients giving them prosthetic limbs or recover lost senses.


Creation of an autonomous life-support system for the human brain linked to a robot, ‘avatar’, will save people whose body is completely worn out or irreversibly damaged. Any patient with an intact brain will be able to return to a fully functioning  bodily life. Such technologies will  greatly enlarge  the possibility of hybrid bio-electronic devices, thus creating a new IT revolution and will make  all  kinds of superimpositions of electronic and biological systems possible.


Creation of a computer model of the brain and human consciousness  with the subsequent development of means to transfer individual consciousness  onto an artificial carrier. This development will profoundly change the world, it will not only give everyone the possibility of  cybernetic immortality but will also create a friendly artificial intelligence,  expand human capabilities  and provide opportunities for ordinary people to restore or modify their own brain multiple times.  The final result  at this stage can be a real revolution in the understanding of human nature that will completely change the human and technical prospects for humanity.


This is the time when substance-independent minds will receive new bodies with capacities far exceeding those of ordinary humans. A new era for humanity will arrive!  Changes will occur in all spheres of human activity – energy generation, transportation, politics, medicine, psychology, sciences, and so on.

Today it is hard to imagine a future when bodies consisting of nanorobots  will become affordable  and capable of taking any form. It is also hard to imagine body holograms featuring controlled matter. One thing is clear however:  humanity, for the first time in its history, will make a fully managed evolutionary transition and eventually become a new species. Moreover,  prerequisites for a large-scale  expansion into outer space will be created as well.


Key elements of the project in the future

• International social movement
• social network immortal.me
• charitable foundation "Global Future 2045" (Foundation 2045)
• scientific research centre "Immortality"
• business incubator
• University of "Immortality"
• annual award for contribution to the realization of  the project of "Immortality”.

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