As microcomponents in engineered systems, biological muscles have unique advantages such as large force transduction, utilization of biochemical fuel, and self-assembly from single cells, over other inorganic actuators for biomedical engineering applications. Successful integration of muscles with inorganic fabricated structures and electronics promises the capability of precisely characterizing muscles' mechanical properties and fabricating self-assembled controllable autonomous structures powered by ubiquitous glucose. However, the use of extracted muscle tissue from animals on these devices is impractical and inefficient, as the tissues must be dissected and incorporated into each device by hand with crude interfaces between the biological tissue and inorganic materials. Integration of muscle with fabricated structures would be optimally achieved through self-assembling muscle cells on MEMS. The construction of self-assembled muscle-powered MEMS structures is complicated by the stringent requirements to spatially direct the cell growth, control the tight connection of these differentiated structures with MEMS structures, and enable the cells and the integrated hybrid freedom to move. Conventional and soft photolithography techniques have been extensively employed to pattern the growth of a variety of cell types and investigate their interaction with substrate in the micrometer level. However, all studies are only suitable for patterning static cells on an immobile surface, so a novel system of spatially patterning the contractible cells must be developed to enable the cells and the integrated hybrid devices to be free to move.
We present a novel system of self-assembling myocytes on MEMS devices. This system has shown its capability of spatially and selectively directed growth and differentiation of myocytes into single muscle bundles, attachment of these functional bundles to MEMS structures, and the controlled partial release of the resultant hybrid devices. Two groups of self-assembled muscle-MEMS devices, force-measuring cantilevers and muscle-powered microrobots have been created. Here the further detailed studies of this system are discussed, especially the concept of the self-assembly and the material interfacial problems in this system.
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The authors would like to thank Dr. William Robb MacLellan at UCLA for offering cardiac myocytes. We want also to thank Dr. Jinsoo Yi and Dr. Jordon Patti for their suggestion.
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Xi, J., Schmidt, J.J. & Montemagno, C.D. Development of Self-assembled Muscle-powered Microdevices. MRS Online Proceedings Library 820, 138–143 (2004). https://doi.org/10.1557/PROC-820-O5.8/W9.8