Researchers to Create Humanoid-Bioreactor System: Humanoid Robots Wearing Human Skin to Improve Tissue Engineering

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Mar 16, 2017 09:52 PM EDT

TOKYO, JAPAN - JANUARY 18: Visitors take photographs of a Kokoro Co. humanoid robot at the Robodex (Robot Development & Application Expo) trade show on January 18, 2017 in Tokyo, Japan. Approximately 160 exhibitors participated in the trade show which covers development technology of robots through to the application of robots. (Photo by Tomohiro Ohsumi/Getty Images)
(Photo : Credit: Tomohiro Ohsumi / Stringe)

Researchers at the University of Oxford are proposing to create a humanoid-bioreactor system: a robot with real human tissue. The Oxford scientists claim that utilizing humanoid robots would improve the growth of musculoskeletal tissue grafts. This project would help to enhance the current technologies in tissue engineering.

The biomedical researchers at two University of Oxford, Pierre-Alexis Mouthuy and Andrew Carr, are putting forward a plan that they hope would revolutionize and improve tissue engineering technology. The two scientists' proposal, published in Science Robotics, recommends building a humanoid robot with its exoskeleton encased with human flesh, tissue, and skin, thus creating a humanoid-bioreactor system.

According to the researchers, humanoid robots may hold the key to creating muscle and tendon grafts which can perform what real tissue grafts could do. At the moment, tissue grafts created by current tissue engineering technology are littered with structural deficiencies and low cell counts.

Ars Technica reports that the current tissue engineering technology is relying on bioreactors for growing sheets of cells, utilizing a large vat-filled tank containing nutrients and chemicals. The University of Oxford researchers suggests that this current technology fails to simulate the mechanical environment needed for the cells to grow properly, something they hope their proposed humanoid-bioreactor system would correct.

The humanoid-bioreactor system would mimic the structures, dimensions, and mechanics of the human body. By interacting with its environment, the humanoid robot would simulate actual movement of real tissues growing in actual human beings.

By allowing the tissues grafted in the humanoid robot to simulate real movement and be subjected to actual strain mimicking human movement, the humanoid-bioreactor system would, therefore, be able to grow specific tissues for replacing a specific target in the human body. This alone would help improve current tissue engineering technology and help in reducing animal testing in clinical trials.

The researchers add that humanoid-bioreactor system would open new doorways for further science and medicine studies. According to Alexis Mouthuy and Andrew Carr, they do not want to start a "machines-to-replace-or-eradicate-humans" debate with their proposed humanoid-bioreactor system.

What the biomedical researchers want is to open up discussions concerning future collaborations between robotics professionals and regenerative medical experts. While some people would still focus on the possible dangers of machines taking over, the researchers claim that their proposed humanoid-bioreactor system would improve tissue engineering.

Yes, the potential is there, and this is just the beginning. In the future, the humanoid-bioreactor system could save the lives of people needing tissue grafts. And that alone makes the development of this proposal crucial.

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