On 10th February 2022, Harvard University researchers, in conjunction with colleagues from Emory University, successfully created the first-ever, completely autonomous, biohybrid fish using human heart muscle cells.
This invention brings the artificial organs industry a step closer to developing an artificial heart using human stem cells.
A large number of companies and research institutes around the world are actively striving to produce various artificial organs in order to alleviate the scarcity of organ donors.
As per the BIS Research study, the global artificial organs market is expected to grow to reach $5.37 billion in value by 2023.
A biohybrid fish is created by focusing on two essential regulatory aspects of the human heart, namely, automaticity and mechanoelectrical signaling.
The artificial fish swims by imitating the muscular contraction of a pumping heart, taking researchers one step closer to producing a more intricate artificial muscular pump and giving a platform for research into heart illness such as arrhythmia.
The invention of biohybrid fish discovery has revealed the relevance of feedback mechanisms in muscular pumps (heart). It could aid in the construction of a living muscle cell-based artificial heart.
Biohybrid systems, which combine biological and artificial components, are a valuable tool for investigating physiological control mechanisms in biological organisms. These systems can also help in developing bio-inspired robotic solutions for a variety of important issues related to human health.
However, the performance of biohybrid systems has been inadequate in natural fluid transport pumps, such as those that circulate blood.
Artificial organs are medical gadgets that can be used to replace organ transplants. These are implantable or wearable medical device solutions that can imitate the essential functions of major body organs.
Features of Biohybrid Fish
The researchers have created an autonomous pacing node that controls the regularity and rhythm of these impulsive contractions, similar to a pacemaker. The autonomous pacing node and the two layers of muscle worked together to generate continuous, impulsive, and coordinated back-and-forth fin movements.
The biohybrid fish can live longer, move faster, and swim more efficiently because of the two main pacing mechanisms.
This innovation provides a model for studying mechano-electrical signaling as a targeted therapy for heart rhythm regulation and for better understanding the pathophysiology of sinoatrial node dysfunction and cardiac arrhythmia.
Motive of Developing Biohybrid Fish
Researchers wanted to see if two of the heart's functional regulatory traits, mechanoelectrical signaling and automaticity, could be translated to a synthetic counterpart of some other fluid transport system, a swimming fish.
"Our ultimate goal is to create an artificial heart to replace a child's damaged heart," said Kit Parker, a Harvard professor.
The majority of work in developing heart tissue or hearts focuses on recreating anatomical aspects of the simple beating of the heart in artificial tissues.
However, here, the design inspiration comes from the biophysics of the heart, which is more difficult to achieve. Rather than using heart imaging as a blueprint, the basic biophysical principles that make the heart function is found and replicated in an automated swimming fish, where it is much easier to determine the success rate.
Artificial biohybrid organs were introduced into the medical device business, providing a new ray of hope for resolving the global organ scarcity dilemma.
Replicating the Human Heart
The scientists created the first autonomous biohybrid gadget using cardiomyocytes produced from human stem cells in this study in February 2022.
The design and swimming motion of a zebrafish inspired the invention of this device. The biohybrid zebrafish, unlike earlier devices, has two layers of muscle tissue on each side of the tail fin.
The other side expands when one side compresses. This stretch opens a mechanosensitive protein channel that generates a contraction, which in turn causes another stretch, and so on, creating a closed-loop mechanism capable of propelling the fish for more than 100 days.
The artificial organs industry is working toward developing different and natural mechanisms to replace the affected body organs. The initial phase of developing an organ from a human stem cell is cleared. The further process is to implant this artificially developed organ in the human body.
The global demand for organ transplants is quickly increasing due to the growing geriatric population and an increase in the prevalence of a number of diseases.