A group of intelligent nano-dispositifs, experts in the field of micro- and nanorobotics at the Institute of Bioengineering of Catalonia, has managed to create hybrid robots in which synthetic material was combined with living muscle tissue created as a result of 3D bio printing.
These soft robotic devices, created with the use of biological tissues and millimeter-sized fabrics, due to their nature, offer many advantages – in terms of movement and performance – compared to existing systems that use only artificial materials.
“Robotics with soft biologically inspired devices is a new discipline that can help us overcome the limitations of traditional robotic systems, such as flexibility, reactivity, or adaptability,” said IBEC principal researcher Samuel Sanchez and research professor at ICREA.
"We are exploring the potential of 3D bioprinting for the production of improved and hybrid versions that contain true muscle tissue, using its speed, the ability to design, shape, and customize the materials on which it can be printed, as well as scalability," he adds.
The research team used 3D-bioprinting to create muscle tissue based on the creation of highly alien myotubes, that is, multi-core fibers necessary for muscle function, which is used for the operation of the bioactivators of the robot. And then they calibrated their strengths using a measuring platform and studied their genetic expression in order to evaluate their adaptability to training exercises.
“We have seen that they are functional and sensitive, and the forces that they generate can be modulated according to different needs,” said Tanya Patino, a doctoral thesis researcher Juan de la Sierva and the first author of an article published in the journal Advanced Materials Technologies. “Now we know much more about the basic mechanisms of adaptation of muscle bio-drives and about the success of 3D bio printing as a fast and cost-effective way of producing them. With our system, we hope that basic muscle research can be advanced in areas such as soft robotics, or can be used as a platform for testing drugs to understand how they affect muscle contraction, which can be very interesting for the pharmaceutical industry. "
“We have shown that this integration of biological systems into robotic devices provides the acquired capabilities of natural systems and that we can train them, like real muscles, to adjust their work to suit the needs,” adds Rafael Mestre, a graduate student with La Caixa grant. North Ochoa in IBEC and co-author of the article.
"This work will create in the future, hybrid robots made from real biological tissue and many characteristics that cannot be obtained with the help of rigid classical robotics," adds Samuel Sanchez.