Friday, August 21, 2009

Living machines?

microbots being created are not solely machines. Several institutes have been involved in incorporating organic living tissue with inorganic components to create hybrid devices that are part machine, part organism. The first such devices were self-assembling microbots powered by living heart muscle, created by engineers at the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA). Each tiny robot is composed of an arch of gold connected to a sheath of cardiac muscle grown from rat cells, and if released in the body, it feeds off glucose in the blood to get energy to move. To test the microbots, the researchers immersed them in a protein and sugar solution that mimicked internal body conditions. As the heart muscle contracted and then relaxed, the microbot could be seen to 'walk' forward.
These microbots could potentially be used in microsurgery, for example to clear out the build up of plaques within arteries. The technology also has potential for creating new legs or fingers for amputees by allowing new muscle cells to grow over artificial bones.

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