Scientists from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have 3D-printed mini biological robots (‘biobots’) that are powered by the heart cells of rats. 3D printing means their design is flexible and adaptable for different purposes.
Popular Mechanics reports that first, a flexible gel scaffold was printed and seeded with the heart cells. This cardiac tissue spread over the hydrogel and the cells were then powered by a liquid food that made them beat and move the biobot in a walking motion. The 7mm biobots currently travel at around 236 micrometers per second, and the team is working on making them faster and more powerful.
Future versions of this biobot will feature skeletal muscle (which is more controllable), incorporate neurons that enable them to detect and combat toxins, and could have two legs to move more freely. Check out the video below to see the movement of the biobots: