A biohybrid fish that swims thanks to human heart cells

A research group from Harvard University (USA), in collaboration with teams from Emory University, has designed and built the first fully autonomous biohybrid fish made from human heart stem cells. This research, published in the journal Science, is a very important step in the scientific understanding of the biophysical principles that make the heart work. The ultimate goal of this study is “to build a complete artificial heart to replace a malformed one in a child,” says Kit Parker, senior author and professor at the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Bioengineering and Applied Sciences.

The biohybrid fish (made up of biological and artificial components) is made from a gelatinous hydrogel to which a couple of layers of human heart muscle tissue made from genetically modified stem cells have been added. When one layer of this tissue contracts, the other stretches, activating a protein that triggers the process of autonomous movement of the fish that was in motion for 100 days. This muscular bilayer system replicates the mechanism that makes the heart beat constantly, which would help, in the future, to build a fully functional artificial heart.

SciencieHarvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences