Smart Nanodispositives group, micro experts and nanorrobots at the Institute of Bioengineering of Catalonia, have succeeded in making hybrid robots in which synthetic materials have been combined with living muscle tissue produced from 3D bioprinting.
This soft robot device, made with biological tissue and measuring millimeters, because of its nature offers many advantages – in terms of movement and performance – with respect to the current system which only uses artificial materials.
"Robotics with biologically inspired software is a new discipline that can help us overcome the limitations of conventional robotic systems, such as flexibility, reactivity, or adaptability," said Samuel Sánchez, principal researcher at IBEC and ICREA research professor.
"We are exploring the potential of 3D bio-printing to produce improved versions and hybrids that contain real muscle tissue, take advantage of its speed, the ability to design, shape and the ability to adapt printable materials, and their scalability," he added.
The research group used 3D bio-printing to make muscle tissue based on the creation of highly alienated myotubes, namely multinucleated fibers needed for muscle function used for the performance of robotic bio-actuators. And then they calibrate their strengths using a measurement platform and study their genetic expression to assess their adaptability in training.
"We have seen that they are functional and sensitive and that the strength they produce can be modulated according to different needs," said Tania Patiño, postdoctoral researcher Juan de la Cierva and first author of the article published in the journal Advanced Material Technologies. "We now know more about the basic mechanisms behind the adaptability of muscle bio-actuators and the success of bio-3D printing as a fast and cost-effective way to make it. With our system, we hope that basic studies of muscle tissue can be improved in fields such as soft robotics, or can be used as a platform for drug testing to understand how they affect muscle contraction, which can be very interesting for the pharmaceutical industry. "
"We have shown that the integration of biological systems in these robotic devices provides the capabilities of natural systems and that we can train them like real muscles to adjust their performance as needed," added Rafael Mestre, a doctoral student with a grant from La Caixa. Severo Ochoa at IBEC and the author of the first article.
"This work will serve to get future hybrid robots made with real biological networks and many characteristics that cannot be obtained with rigid classical robotics," Samuel Sánchez added