Stingray Soft Robot Could Lead to Development of Bio-Inspired Robotics

The new technology could lead to advances in bio-inspired robotics, regenerative medicine, and medical diagnostics.

Bioengineering Professor Ali Khademhosseini from University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) has developed a tissue-based soft robot that mimics the biomechanics of a stingray. The study was published in Advanced Materials journal on January 13, 2018. The research was supported by the Defense Threat Reduction Agency. Additional funding support came from the National Institutes of Health, the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers, and the Air Force Office of Sponsored Research.

The simple body design of stingrays, specifically, a flattened body shape and side fins that start at the head and end at the base of their tail, makes them ideal model for bio-electromechanical systems. The 10-millimeter long robot is made up of four layers: tissue composed of live heart cells, two distinct types of specialized biomaterials for structural support, and flexible electrodes. Imitating nature, the robotic stingray is even able to flap its fins when the electrodes contract the heart cells on the biomaterial scaffold.

According to Robotics System Integration Market report published by Coherent Market Insights, integration is a method of programming and supplying industrial robots so that they can perform the task of manufacturing automatically. “The development of such bioinspired systems could enable future robotics that contain both biological tissues and electronic systems,” Khademhosseini said. “This advancement could be used for medical therapies such as personalized tissue patches to strengthen cardiac muscle tissue for heart attack patients.”

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