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Sci-Tech

Butterfly made from rat heart cells might save your life

The fluttering "wings" of this mixture of hydrogel, nanocrystals and beating cells could help researchers test experimental heart drugs.

butterfly

The mixture looks like a butterfly mid-flight when the rat heart cells are beating.

Southeast University

Sometimes a butterfly is more bot than botanical.

Scientists in the bio-electronics lab at Southeast University in Nanjing, China, have created a "bio bot" that could help save human lives, according to research published this week. 

The researchers created a butterfly shape out of hydrogel and added iridescent nanocrystals that mimic the color-changing properties of a chameleon's skin. Then they added a layer of rat heart cells. 

"When the heart cells beat, the nanoparticles get stretched and change color, creating the impression of flying wings," according to the MIT Technology Review.  

The results of the research are detailed in "Bioinspired living structural color hydrogels," a paper published in the Science Robotics journal.

"By integrating the biohybrid structural color hydrogels into microfluidics, we developed a 'heart-on-a-chip' platform featuring microphysiological visuality for biological research and drug screening," the paper says. "This biohybrid, living, structural color hydrogel may be widely used in the design of a variety of intelligent actuators and soft robotic devices."

Researchers used the gel mixture to observe color change rates when the "bio-bots" were given a new drug. This could be helpful to researchers and pharmaceutical companies that want to determine how cells might react to experimental heart medications.