Heart muscle cells push the silicone ball, so fluid is pumped through the tubes. The dark bulges are from the glue that connects the tubes to the silicone ball. Photo: Royal Society of Chemistry
Read aloud Japanese researchers have developed a miniature pump powered by cardiac cells. For this, they wrapped an elastic ball with cultured rat heart muscle cell tissue. The synchronized contractions of the cells pumped a fluid in the ball in and out through two openings. The pump is only half a centimeter in size and works completely independently of any external power source as it gains its energy from surrounding nutrients. This makes them particularly interesting for use in medical implants. The researchers inserted two tiny tubes into two opposing openings in the silicone ball, coating it with a layer of protein to which cells adhere more easily and wrapping the heart cell tissue over it. After just one hour, the tissue had completely attached to the ball and started to operate the pump. Tanaka and his team compare the setup to the one-chamber heart of earthworms.

Submerged in a 37 ° C nutrient solution, the pump worked for five days, during which researchers used a microscope to study pumping power. The movement of the fluid, which was triggered by the pulsating muscle tissue, they could observe it in the thin tubes and thus calculate pulse rate and flow volume.

In their next step, Tanaka and his colleagues want to install chambers and valves in the pump so that the fluid can be pumped in one direction rather than being pumped back and forth just like in this experiment. In addition to a possible use of the living pump in the human body, the Japanese see potential applications in research, for example, as part of cardiovascular models.

Yo Tanaka (University of Tokyo) et al .: Lab Chip, DOI: 10.1039 / b612082b ddp / science.de? Sabine Keuter advertisement

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