Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Bio-bots Are Coming
30 July 2014

Bio-bots Are Coming

Think of a robot and you probably imagine something made of metal and wires. But scientists are now exploring the softer side of robotics, developing devices made from squishy biological materials that adapt quickly to the environment around them. These bio-bots, as they're known, could transform the robots of the future. A team of US researchers has used 3D printing to create a tiny soft 'skeleton' made of a special gel. This is then impregnated with mouse muscle stem cells, which grow into a sheet of strong muscle cells (pictured) to provide power and movement. Normally, muscle cells in the body respond to electrical signals, and it's the same here: an electrical zap gets the bio-bot crawling along like an inchworm. It's pretty slow – just a fraction of a millimetre per second – but this technology could one day lead to revolutionary biological machines.

Written by Kat Arney

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