A collaborative study by Harry Asada (MIT) and Roger Kamm (Penn State) and colleagues just published in Lab on a Chip has been causing a bit of a stir on the blogosphere recently. The article describes the stimulation of muscle, not by electrical signals as used in the body, but by light. The team engineered skeletal muscle tissue to contain a light-responsive protein, which allowed it to contract when blue light was shone on it, as shown in the video below from the MIT press release:
Jumping straight from this amazing achievement to the future, several blogs have already discussed the potential of this technology for advanced biorobotics (this article was our favourite). Professor Asada is a little more modest and discusses the potential of the engineered muscle to control endoscopes or be used in drug screening programmes.
Read the paper here or take a look at some of the posts on the topic:
Machines like us
Researchers engineer light-activated skeletal muscle
Formation and optogenetic control of engineered 3D skeletal muscle bioactuators
Mahmut Selman Sakar, Devin M Neal, Thomas Boudou, Michael A Borochin, Yinqing Li, Ron Weiss, Roger Kamm, Christopher S. Chen and H Harry Asada
Lab Chip, 2012, Accepted Manuscript