Nature Materials, Vol.4, No.2, 180-U67, 2005
Self-assembled microdevices driven by muscle
Current procedures for manual extraction of mature muscle tissue in micromechanical structures are time consuming and can damage the living components. To overcome these limitations, we have devised a new system for assembling muscle-powered microdevices based on judicious manipulations of materials phases and interfaces. In this system, individual cells grow and self-assemble into muscle bundles that are integrated with micromechanical structures and can be controllably released to enable free movement. Having realized such an assembly with cardiomyocytes we demonstrate two potential applications: a force transducer able to characterize in situ the mechanical properties of muscle and a self-assembled hybrid (biotic/abiotic) microdevice that moves as a consequence of collective cooperative contraction of muscle bundles. Because the fabrication of silicon microdevices is independent of the subsequent assembly of muscle cells, this system is highly versatile and may lead to the integration of cells and tissues with a variety of other microstructures.