Have you ever visited the aquarium and marvelled at the beauty and grace of the Jellyfish pulsing through the water?
Well, for one Harvard bioengineer, Kit Parker, a day out at the aquarium with his daughter spent admiring just that resulted in his inspiration for his design of an artificial heart.
Following his breakthrough realisation, Parker returned to his lab with the view to build a jellyfish-inspired robot, powered by muscles made of living heart cells from a rat.
The result? An artificial jellyfish with heart cells that squeezed and relaxed, squeezed and relaxed, pumping water in a way that imitated the mechanisms of the human heart.
Kit Parker is largely renown for his designs of ‘organs-on-chips’, or miniature human organs, used for testing new drugs and chemicals. However, Parker now has far more ambitious projects in mind, including growing a whole living human heart for transplant.
Such advancement in the field would do away with the bulky mechanical hearts – currently made of plastic and metal – that patients in need of transplants are provided.
Parker’s approach is unique, and may provide a solution to the most pertinent issue presented to scientists; it may provide more strength in each artificial beat to pump enough blood to reach the entire body.
There are many different approaches to growing an artificial heart, and it is such a complicated machine, growing a successful one will require the advice and intelligence of a multitude of scientists from an array of fields. And maybe even a father and child day out at the aquarium.