A tissue-engineered jellyfish with biomimetic propulsion

Janna C. Nawroth, Hyungsuk Lee, Adam W. Feinberg, Crystal M. Ripplinger, Megan L. McCain, Anna Grosberg, John O. Dabiri, Kevin Kit Parker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

427 Citations (Scopus)


Reverse engineering of biological form and function requires hierarchical design over several orders of space and time. Recent advances in the mechanistic understanding of biosynthetic compound materials, computer-aided design approaches in molecular synthetic biology and traditional soft robotics, and increasing aptitude in generating structural and chemical microenvironments that promote cellular self-organization have enhanced the ability to recapitulate such hierarchical architecture in engineered biological systems. Here we combined these capabilities in a systematic design strategy to reverse engineer a muscular pump. We report the construction of a freely swimming jellyfish from chemically dissociated rat tissue and silicone polymer as a proof of concept. The constructs, termed 'medusoids', were designed with computer simulations and experiments to match key determinants of jellyfish propulsion and feeding performance by quantitatively mimicking structural design, stroke kinematics and animal-fluid interactions. The combination of the engineering design algorithm with quantitative benchmarks of physiological performance suggests that our strategy is broadly applicable to reverse engineering of muscular organs or simple life forms that pump to survive.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)792-797
Number of pages6
JournalNature Biotechnology
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 2012 Aug

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We acknowledge financial support from the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard, the Harvard Materials Research Science and Engineering Center under National Science Foundation award number DMR-0213805, US National Institutes of Health grant 1 R01 HL079126 (K.K.P.), and from the office of Naval Research and National Science Foundation Program in Fluid Dynamics (J.O.D.). We acknowledge the Harvard Center for Nanoscale Science for use of facilities and the New England Aquarium for supplying jellyfish. We thank J. Goss, P.W. Alford, K.R. Sutherland, K. Balachandran, C. Regan, P. Campbell, S. Spina and A. Agarwal for comments and technical support.

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Biotechnology
  • Bioengineering
  • Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology
  • Molecular Medicine
  • Biomedical Engineering


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