Abstract: Since the discovery of genes, there is a considerable body of knowledge on engineering living cells. It is now possible to envision biohybrid machines and robots with living cells and scaffolds. These machines may self assemble and emerge from complex interactions between the cells and the scaffolds at various hierarchical levels. We will highlight a few biohybrid machines developed in various labs, but discuss in detail a biohybrid swimmer that emerges from interactions between muscle cells and neurons. While such machines demonstrate the first milestone achieved in this new field of living robots with unprecedented opportunities, they also highlight the current limitations and gaps in the field. Closing these fundamental gaps will not only pave the way to more complex engineered living systems, but will also provide new insight on biological processes and the life itself. A few key challenges and unanswered questions will be discussed.
Bio: Dr Taher Saif is the Edward William and Jane Marr Gutgsell Professor in the Department of Mechanical Science and Engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. His current research includes tumor micro environment, mechanics of neurons and cardiac cells, and development of biological machines. His research involves exploration of the underlying mechanism of cell-cell and cell-scaffold interactions, as well as the biophysical processes by which cells remodel their microenvironment. He served as the research lead for biohybrid machines group in the NSF Science and Technology Center, EBICS. He is the recipient of 2020 Engineering Science Medal from the Society of Engineering Science, and the 2018 Warner T. Koiter Medal from American Society of Mechanical Engineers.