Scientists have developed a tissue-based soft robot that mimics the biomechanics of a stingray, a finding that could lead to advances in bio-inspired robotics, regenerative medicine and medical diagnostics.
The 10-millimetre-long robot is made up of four layers: Tissue composed of live heart cells, two distinct types of specialised biomaterials for structural support, and flexible electrodes.
The robotic stingray is also able to "flap" its fins when the electrodes contract the heart cells on the biomaterial scaffold.
"The development of such bioinspired systems could enable future robotics that contain both biological tissues and electronic systems," said lead author Ali Khademhosseini, bioengineering professor at the University of California - Los Angeles.
"This advancement could be used for medical therapies such as personalised tissue patches to strengthen cardiac muscle tissue for heart attack patients," Khademhosseini added, in the paper that was published in the journal Advanced Materials.
Stingrays have a simple, flattened body shape and side fins that start at the head and ends at the base of their tail, making them the ideal to model for bio-electromechanical systems on, the researchers said.