Just like our own biology, tendons attach the muscle to the bone. To mimic nature, the engineers used two post-like structures, like table legs, to anchor a strip of engineered muscle cells to the 3D printed backbone. Since the bio-bot needs to move, the posts are the bio-bot’s feet.
The bio-bot is less than a centimeter long (the width of a pencil) and moves through electrical pulses sent to its skeletal muscle. This gives the researchers control over how fast or slow the bio-bot moves.
According to Rashid Bashir, project lead and Abel Bliss Professor of Engineering, University of Illinois, designing machines with biological structures allows researchers to harness the power of cells and nature to address challenges facing society.
“As engineers, we’ve always built things with hard materials, materials that are very predictable. Yet there are a lot of applications where nature solves a problem in such an elegant way. Can we replicate some of that if we can understand how to put things together with cells,” said Bashir.