Living Muscles Integrated Into Robots By Japanese Researchers

Living muscle tissue have been integrated into robots to create a dexterous cyborg by a group of Japanese engineers. The results of the project that was undertaken by the engineers was published this week in the journal Science Robotics.

In this study, individual muscle precursor cells are first transformed to muscle-cell-filled sheets and then it is designed into a fully functioning skeletal muscle tissue. This study was undertaken by engineers and researchers at The University of Tokyo Institute of Industrial Science.

The researchers were able to achieve remarkable robot movement and continued muscle function by merging these artificially created muscles into a biohybrid robot as antagonistic pairs that are able to mimic those in the body. Such movement was managed to be sustained for over a week as described and claimed in the study.

A robot skeleton was created by the researchers which was used to install the pair of functioning muscles. The research team was led by Shoji Takeuchi, the paper’s corresponding author.

The robot comprised of a rotatable joint, anchors which was the place where the muscles were attached and electrodes that were used to give the electrical stimulus to create contraction of muscles.

The researchers made use of hydrogel sheets that contained muscle precursor cells called myoblasts and had holes which were used for attaching these sheets to the robot skeleton anchors. It also had stripes that helped in the development of the muscle fibers in an aligned manner.

“Once we had built the muscles, we successfully used them as antagonistic pairs in the robot, with one contracting and the other expanding, just like in the body,” said Takeuchi.

The robots were also tested for various applications by the team. Such application included making the robot to pick up and place a ring and controlling two robots working together to pick up a square frame.

according to the claims made in the paper, the efficiency and performance of the robots was quite good and they completed the tasks well enough. Various components that made up the movement included activation of the muscles that helped in flexing of a finger-like protuberance at the end of the robot by around 90 degrees.

“Our findings show that, using this antagonistic arrangement of muscles, these robots can mimic the actions of a human finger,” the paper’s lead author Yuya Morimoto said. “If we can combine more of these muscles into a single device, we should be able to reproduce the complex muscular interplay that allow hands, arms, and other parts of the body to function.”

(Adapted from


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