A Self-Propelled Biohybrid Swimmer at Low Reynolds Number

Nat Commun. 2014;5:3081. doi: 10.1038/ncomms4081.

Abstract

Many microorganisms, including spermatozoa and forms of bacteria, oscillate or twist a hair-like flagella to swim. At this small scale, where locomotion is challenged by large viscous drag, organisms must generate time-irreversible deformations of their flagella to produce thrust. To date, there is no demonstration of a self propelled, synthetic flagellar swimmer operating at low Reynolds number. Here we report a microscale, biohybrid swimmer enabled by a unique fabrication process and a supporting slender-body hydrodynamics model. The swimmer consists of a polydimethylsiloxane filament with a short, rigid head and a long, slender tail on which cardiomyocytes are selectively cultured. The cardiomyocytes contract and deform the filament to propel the swimmer at 5-10 μm s(-1), consistent with model predictions. We then demonstrate a two-tailed swimmer swimming at 81 μm s(-1). This small-scale, elementary biohybrid swimmer can serve as a platform for more complex biological machines.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biocompatible Materials
  • Biomechanical Phenomena / physiology
  • Cell Movement / physiology*
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Dimethylpolysiloxanes*
  • Fibroblasts / cytology
  • Fibroblasts / physiology
  • Hydrodynamics*
  • Models, Biological*
  • Myocytes, Cardiac / cytology
  • Myocytes, Cardiac / physiology*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley

Substances

  • Biocompatible Materials
  • Dimethylpolysiloxanes
  • baysilon