Our ability to harness light energy to control mechanical systems and employ it in many other useful ways continues to grow. I have written how the 21st century will be the century of light. Optogenetics is one of the emerging fields that will have a significant impact in putting the power of light to work.
Researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have now used genetically modified muscle cells to create a light-powered bio-bot. The cells were modified to react to blue light. When stimulated by the light, the cells contract. The researchers were able to construct a ring of muscle cells around a flexible 3D-printed rod-like structure. By stimulating various regions of the cellular ring, the researchers were able to make the structure “walk”. Motion can be controlled as needed, depending on which region of cells are stimulated by the light source.