This Swimming Stingray Robot Is Powered by Real, Living Rat Cells

Jul 9, 2016

By William Herkewitz

This soft robotic stingray is made of rat heart muscle. Yeah, it’s just as crazy as it sounds.

“Roughly speaking, we made this thing with a pinch of rat cardiac cells, a pinch of breast implant, and a pinch of gold. That pretty much sums it up, except for the genetic engineering,” says Kit Parker, the bio-engineer at Harvard who led the team that developed the strange robot.

Parker’s robotic stingray is tiny—a bit more than half an inch long—and weighs only 10 grams. But it glides through liquid with the very same undulating motion used by fish like real stingrays and skates. The robot is powered by the contraction of 200,000 genetically engineered rat heart-muscle cells grown on the underside of the bot. Even stranger, Parker’s team developed the robot to follow bright pulses of light, allowing it to smoothly twist and turn through an obstacle courses. The fascinating robot was unveiled today in the journal Science.


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