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Robots Get Genetically Engineered Skeletal Muscles

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Beth Stackpole
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Stuff of science fiction
Beth Stackpole   9/20/2012 7:40:12 AM
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It's really pretty incredible what's percolating in the research labs when it comes to robotics, particularly in the area of biomechanics. I could see huge applications for this technology as part of the advances already happening on the prosthetics front. Having a prosthetic leg that can replicate some natural human movements would be a reall boon for patients looking to get back into their active lifestyles. Amazing stuff.

Nancy Golden
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Re: Stuff of science fiction
Nancy Golden   9/20/2012 11:49:45 AM
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I agree Beth - I just watched the video and it was amazing how the material contracted under the light stimulus. The whole concept reminds me of "Data" from Star Trek The Next Generation - it looks like the beginnings of androids and prosthetics would be such a wonderful application. It amazes me how much the futuristic vision of Star Trek is being played out today. I wonder if there are any bioethical issues that willl be raised from this type of engineering...

Rob Spiegel
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What keeps the muscles alive?
Rob Spiegel   9/20/2012 3:19:31 PM
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Great story, Ann. If these are genetically engineered muscles, then it sounds like they're alive. If so, what keeps them alive? Or, is this material artificial? 

gsmith120
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Re: Stuff of science fiction
gsmith120   9/20/2012 3:31:47 PM
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I agree pretty incredible.   Ann, any idea when MIT and U of PA plan to have the first working model of their genetically engineered robot?  Are there plans on using the engineered skeletal muscles in humans?

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: What keeps the muscles alive?
Ann R. Thryft   9/20/2012 3:35:15 PM
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Rob, you're asking the same excellent question Jack asked regarding the engineered tissue in the Medusoid. As I responded to him, I think the answer lies more in the realm of biotech than robotics, at least for now. Does anyone else know?

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: Stuff of science fiction
Ann R. Thryft   9/20/2012 3:39:25 PM
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gsmith, there was no indication yet about the team's future plans for robots, or using this skeletal muscle tissue in humans. Use in humans would be an entirely different bioengineering project.



ttemple
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Re: What keeps the muscles alive?
ttemple   9/21/2012 8:16:22 AM
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I'm pretty sure it's the same thing that keeps me alive... Pepsi.  I think I could see the hose in the viedo.  (just kidding).

Rob Spiegel
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Re: What keeps the muscles alive?
Rob Spiegel   9/21/2012 12:53:52 PM
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Wow. I would imagine that brings up bio-ethical issues, Ann. Very Matrix.

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: What keeps the muscles alive?
Ann R. Thryft   9/21/2012 12:57:07 PM
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Here's an icky answer for how genetically engineered tissue is kept alive. First, just from being a sci-fi fan I knew the tissue had to be grown and preserved in some kind of artificial, nutrient-rich medium. This article on creating artificial meat (hence the "ick" factor) has some answers on how that's done:
http://suite101.com/article/lab-grown-hamburgers-to-hit-the-market-next-year-a397077
But does that mean that skeletal muscle tissue on a robot is somehow immersed in a liquid nutrient bath?

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: What keeps the muscles alive?
Ann R. Thryft   9/21/2012 12:59:19 PM
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Rob, if you mean the use of animal tissue to create genetically engineered tissue, that practice is pretty regular. So are the protests by PETA et al. But this story is all about robots, not using this stuff on humans.

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