Documenting the Coming Singularity

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Flexing Artificial Muscles

Combining biological and non-biological materials may allow researchers to use the best of both worlds to develop viable alternatives to worn out human parts. A great example of this trend has been announced on NewScientistTech: Muscular Films.

The term sounds more like gay porn than a scientific development, but it actually refers to the conjoining of thin sheets of polymer and living muscle tissue.

Thin sheets of polymer coated with living muscle could be used to test new drugs, repair damaged body parts, or even create life-like bio-machines, researchers say.

The Harvard University team created the "muscular thin films" by attaching muscle cells to elastic polymer sheets. By laying down striped patterns of proteins on these polymers, they were able to make the muscle cells arrange themselves into muscle fibres, similar to those in animals.

When shocked with electricity, the resulting hybrid material can be made to bend, roll up, or wriggle, at a rate that can easily be controlled.

To see video demonstrations of some of these muscular films in action, click here and here.