HEART-a-FISH-ial Intelligence

What do you get when you cross a fish and a heart? Not a fart …

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science.

Hearts are in high demand these days – the artificial kind, that is! What if we could just grow new ones?

Kit Parker and team at Harvard might have a bio-hack for that!

Their unique approach: Use human heart cells to create a self-moving “bio-hybrid.” Bio-hybrids test our knowledge of muscle cell function. In this case: the cells that make your heart thump! 

In their fish-shaped bio-hybrid model, live interconnected heart cells were placed on either side of a flexible fin. Could they communicate and set their creature in motion? 

Success! When the Franken-fish was released into a pool, it swam! Cells on one side contracted, like in a pumping heart. This stretched cells on the OPPOSITE side, which contracted in response. 

The result – A flapping motion propelling the fish! Unattended, the device could swim for a HUNDRED days!

The researchers think their study shows that engineering a self-sufficient heart is within reach!

And that’s got them … really PUMPED!

Reference: Lee, K.Y., Park, S., Matthews, D.G., Kim, S.L., Marquez, C.A., Zimmerman, J.F., Ardoña, H.A.M., Kleber, A.G., Lauder, G.V., & Parker, K.K. An autonomously swimming biohybrid fish designed with human cardiac biophysics. Science 375, 6581 (2022). DOI: 10.1126/science.abh0474