Walking Bio-Bots Powered by Muscle Cells & Controlled by Electrical Pulses


Engineers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have demonstrated a class of walking 'bio-bots' powered by muscle cells and controlled with electrical pulses, giving researchers unprecedented command over their function. The bots, comprised of a 3d-printed flexible hydrogel and engineered muscle, are designed to mimic the muscle-tendon-bone complex found in the body. Previously, the group demonstrated bio-bots that 'walk' on their own, powered by beating heart cells from rats. However, heart cells constantly contract, denying researchers control over the bot's motion. The new bio-bots are powered by a strip of skeletal muscle cells that can be triggered by an electric pulse. "It's exciting to think that this system could eventually evolve into a generation of biological machines that could aid in drug delivery, surgical robotics, 'smart' implants, or mobile environmental analyzers, among countless other applications," says graduate student Caroline Cvetkovic.