Scientists from the University of Cambridge are using robotics from the LEGO MINDSTORMS robot set to help produce samples of synthetic bone tissue. The team uses hydroxyapatite-gelatin composites to create the synthetic bone, which has low energy costs and improved similarity to the tissues they are intended to replace. Synthetic bone can provide a vast array of innovative applications; from medical implants to building construction, but producing samples of bone can be an intensive and repetitive process.
Daniel Strange, one of the PhD students working on the research, commented:
The great thing about the robots is once you tell them what to do they can do it very precisely over and over again – so a day later I can come back and see a fully made sample.
The LEGO MINDSTORMS robotic kit includes motors, sensors and microprocessors that can be programmed to perform basic tasks on repeat. The team used the kit to build cranes to dip the sample into one beaker of calcium and protein, rinse it in some water and dip it into another beaker of phosphate and protein – this has to be done repeatedly to build up the compound.
Google’s Department of Engineering created a video of the Cambridge team’s research to promote its international Science Fair competition, encouraging teenagers to engage with science. The video goes behind the scenes at the lab to show how the team develop the bone samples: