Advanced medical robots can-do everything from disinfecting rooms to performing surgeries. Now a team of researchers from Oxford University & robotics company Devanthro have developed a robot shoulder that can work as a stretching mechanism in-order to produce life like human tendon tissue, according to a MedicalXpress report published on Friday.
A bioreactor to grow human tissue
The new invention essentially serves as a bio reactor to grow human tissue.
Researchers round the world have struggled for years to create human tendon tissue with the right elasticity required for use in human patient. To solve this mystery, researchers have attempted to increase elasticity by building devices that stretch & bend tissue as it grows.
But unfortunately, these efforts have failed to produce tissue that can twist & stretch to degree that real tissue can. Therefore, this team has developed a new approach to this difficult task.
They’ve done with conventional method of growing tendon tissue in boxes with device that pull on-it. Instead, the researchers decided to grow it in a way that mimics the real human approach.
To do this, they designed an artificial joint that mimics a human shoulder made from a modified open-source robot developed by Devanthro engineers. This system allowed for the addition of a bioreactor and a way to attach the new tissue as it grows.
The team strategically placed a bioreactor & hair-like filaments on the robot’s shoulder, and then flooded the relevant areas with nutrients to stimulate growth. The cells were then given a 2 week development period.
During this time, the shoulder is activated by being bent & twisted in a human like way for 30 min each day. The end result was a tissue that radically different from that grown in a static system.
But is this new tissue culture method a real improvement over traditional methods? Researchers say more work is needed to determine that. However, if they manage to produce human-like tissue, application would be limit-less.
The approach is not entirely new. In fact, it’s been more than two years.
In 2018, researchers at the University of Tokyo unveiled a new “biohybrid” robot that was a cross-over between living tissue & robotics, integrating bio hybrid robotics with living muscle tissue grown from the cells of a rat.
The biohybrid robot was designed to one day replace missing appendages on humans should the technology be repeated & replicated with human tissue, and to build much more advanced & realistic robots. Are we entering a new era where robots and humans (or at least some of them) are merging? Only time will tell.
The new study was published in the journal Communications Engineering.