Harvard Researchers Develop Biohybrid Fish To Swim Like Human Heart Beats

Photo: Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. (WBZ NewsRadio) – Researchers at Harvard are spearheading a breakthrough study that could help the lives of children born with malformed hearts with a biohybrid fish that mimics the human heart.

As Tarr Family Professor of Bioengineering and Applied Physics, Kit Parker has been leading a team of researchers to develop the first autonomous biohybrid fish. The fish is made with stem cells from a human heart.

“It swims like a fish. It's morphologically a fish. Genetically though it's human because it contains human cells from the heart,” Parker explained.

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“The artificial fish swims by recreating the muscle contractions of a pumping heart,” according to a release from the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. Parker said the purpose of the research is to build a new heart for children.

“It seems like a crazy idea,” Parker said, “[but] if you understand the long road towards building a heart for a sick kid, everyone starts to get it.”

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Researchers said the fish improves with age, with all its functions maturing within the first month. The fish was eventually able to swim as fast and efficient as a zebra fish in the wild. While the biohybrid fish project is technically finished, the knowledge gained from the experiment could one day save a child’s life. 

WBZ’s James Rojas (@JamesRojasNews) has more of Parker’s inspiration behind the project:

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