In the 21st century, the line between organic and synthetic life forms is going to blur until both become synonymous. Last week, a man was physically assaulted in a McDonald’s in France for having mechanical-computerized glasses attached to his head. Yesterday, scientists in Caltech and Harvard have created the world’s first cybernetic life form called a medusoid.
Harvard biophysicist Kit Parker and Caltech biotechnology researcher Janna Nawroth have successfully created a jellyfish that is a blend of living and non-living materials. The medusoid creature is conceptually a thin layer of rat heart muscle cells on top of an elastic silicone. It works and moves when an electrical current travels in water. The bell-shaped body moves by opening and closing its bottom to propel it through water.
This experiment was created as a proof-of-concept to show that this life form can reverse engineer living and non-living parts. Their findings were published in Nature Biotechnology and demonstrates “biologically-powered mechanical device . . . can be designed and incorporated into synthetic organisms that precisely mimic the biological function of the desired organism.”
The research group did not set out to create new life but to study new ways for organ repair. They hope to one-day use the medusoid to test new heart drugs or to better develop artificial organs. But the result of this experiment and their findings will lead to group to pursue creating more cybernetic life forms. They want to fine-tune the medusoid’s behaviors such as turning and maneuvering. Imagine having the ability to manufacture the medusoid’s decision making thus creating “instincts” in it. They want to not just make the medusoid act but also react.
This is one step closer to making these medusoids our household pets.