Modular, Muscle-Powered Walking Bio-Bots Respond to Light

A new class of miniature biological robots, or bio-bots, are powered by muscle cells that have been genetically engineered to respond to light - giving researchers control over the bots' motion, a key step toward their use in applications for health, sensing, and the environment. Led by Rashid Bashir, the University of Illinois head of bioengineering, the group previously demonstrated bio-bots that were activated with an electrical field, but electricity can cause adverse side effects to a biological environment and does not allow for selective stimulation of distinct regions of muscle to steer the bio-bot. The new light-stimulation technique is less invasive and allows the researchers to steer the bio-bots in different directions. The bio-bots turn and walk toward the light stimulus.