3D-printed biological robots use heart cells to crawl to life

The marriage of artificial and bio-materials to create cyborg insects and rats is still a bleeding-edge field with fascinating possibilities for human applications. That sometimes controversial vision of the future just took a dramatic turn towards blurring the man-versus-machine lines with the debut of a 3D-printed robot that uses heart cells to walk.

Scientists at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign created the tiny biological robots, or biobots, using a 3D printer to fabricate a flexible gel scaffold, and then injected the structures with heart cells from rats. Once powered by a form of liquid food, the heart cells beat and worked to give the biobot movement, traveling at roughly 236 micrometers per second.

According to the scientists, future versions of the biobot will use more controllable skeletal muscle cells for movement, neurons that will give the devices the ability to sense toxins, and a two-legged structure that will offer more freedom of movement. Extrapolate this development forward about 50-80 years and you have the makings of what could turn out to be real-life Replicants.

You can see the slow, creepy, but nonetheless groundbreaking crawl of the biobot in the video below.

Via PopularMechanics

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