All they need to know is this is the coolest thing they'll see all year
July 7, 2016 6:54 PM   Subscribe

This robot stingray is powered by genetically engineered rat heart cells. It has an elastomer body and a stiff gold skeleton. Rat heart cells are grown in a specific pattern on the underside, and are activated by pulses of light -- allowing the robot to be remote controlled as it navigates through a liquid with suspended nutrients that keep the cells alive. More details from Science. Even Popular Mechanics doesn't need to do much sensationalizing to this story.
posted by cubby (12 comments total) 28 users marked this as a favorite
Fascinating. I'm going to have some interesting dreams tonight.
posted by AdamCSnider at 7:31 PM on July 7, 2016 [1 favorite]

Now just give this AI brain, and the medusoid will be master of the sea.
posted by CheeseDigestsAll at 9:35 PM on July 7, 2016

When she was a toddler, Parker would guide [his daughter] down the sidewalk by shining his laser pointer on the ground and having her stomp on the light. Perhaps his team could do something similar in an artificial ray by making the muscle cells contract in response to light.

posted by biogeo at 9:38 PM on July 7, 2016 [1 favorite]

It looks delicious.
posted by polymodus at 10:04 PM on July 7, 2016 [1 favorite]

I'm sure someone on Wall Street is looking into making an artificial predator for this to acquire the gold skeleton.
posted by juiceCake at 10:11 PM on July 7, 2016 [1 favorite]

"as it navigates through a liquid with suspended nutrients"

A liquid with suspended nutrients... like people playing and swimming in the water at a beach?
posted by Hairy Lobster at 10:13 PM on July 7, 2016 [2 favorites]

Aaaah, I know this guy! He's a trip. My favorite work of his is actually on trying to understand traumatic brain injury.
posted by en forme de poire at 11:18 PM on July 7, 2016 [1 favorite]

This is really neat, and cute, but on the slightly darker side, there is likely a military motive behind the funding. For instance, two of the funding agencies are the Office of Naval Research and the U.S. Army Research Laboratory and Office according to the Science article. So, any weird dreams you may have might be justified is what I'm saying.

ONR and DARPA were funding different, but similarly cool stuff with squids at one point.
posted by tempestuoso at 9:13 AM on July 8, 2016

Resistance is futile.
posted by mule98J at 1:31 PM on July 8, 2016

When I was in grad school, we had invited speakers almost every week. One time, we got a guy working on moth brains (think - how data from their antennae get processed) who's primary funder was DARPA. Very basic research on an interesting model that had potential applicability in niche war/counter-war tech (chemical, possibly biological, warfare detection/early warning).

A buddy of mine's fluid physics post doc was funded by the DND (Canadian Department of National Defense/Ministère de la Défense nationale) to work on gas/particulate dispersal in chaotic atmosphere; potential downstream application being triangulation/location of chemical weapons that had deployed.

<shrug> as a former scientist, I don't really have kneejerk reactions to DARPA/ONR/military/intelligence funding.

This thing is pretty cool - the skill of growing (albeit genetically modified, which implies it was selected from many genetically modified candidates for it's properties) on a non-standard substrate is noteworthy.

Combining that with the idea of photoactivateable channels that induce muscle contraction is really really neat.

Photactivatable channels has been done in the past, notably in optogenetics [Scientific American] (I have not read the article in detail) where transgenic neurons in brains can be (crudely) activated at will with a low powered beam of (laser) light.
posted by porpoise at 7:13 PM on July 8, 2016

Hey, Department of National Defense/Ministère de la Défense nationale, I'm open to investigating any opportunities that you might have available/open right now, or in a few months...
posted by porpoise at 7:18 PM on July 8, 2016 [1 favorite]

> A liquid with suspended nutrients... like people playing and swimming in the water at a beach?

Also like your blood.
posted by anthill at 10:40 PM on July 8, 2016

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