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Flash leads to flex in lab-grown muscle

Light-activated tissue inspires dream of squirming robots

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9:04am, September 18, 2012

Artificial muscle tissue that recoils when hit with a burst of light could one day be used to build soft-bodied robots that can be guided by light.

The light-sensitive tissue could also be used to test new drugs that target muscle-wasting diseases, says Mahmut Selman Sakar of ETH Zurich. The findings are slated to appear in an upcoming issue of the journal Lab on a Chip. Sakar and colleagues first reported their work August 21 on the publication's website.

The work is “a neat step forward,” says bioengineer Hang Lu of the Georgia Institute of Technology, although Lu notes that making a light-controllable robot might still be a long way off.

Sakar and colleagues at MIT teamed up with scientists at the University of Pennsylvania to genetically engineer mouse muscle cells that twinge in response to light. The researchers loaded the cells with a light-activated protein, let the cells fuse into fibers, and mixed them with a special gel to

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