Caterpillar Dorsal Vessel (arrows) is visible through the cuticle
Insects have pumps to make body fluid flow between areas of the body. The largest of these fluid pumps is the Dorsal Vessel, or insect heart. The Dorsal Vessel has rhythmic contractions that pump fluid from the abdominal cavity into the head. Bioengineers desire to create microelectromechanical systems that can pump fluids to make their systems function. Engineers have explored biological material with rhymic contractions, especially heart muscle tissue. Compared to insect heart tissue, vertebrate heart tissue is more difficult to culture. Vertebrate muscle must be kept at optimum temperature and the culture medium frequently changed. Insect muscle is better adapted to a wide range of temperatures (insects are “cold blooded”) and the culture medium requires changing less often.
A team of Japanese researchers* has investigated the use of Dorsal Vessel tissue from the caterpillar, Ctenoplusia agnate. They can culture the cells of the Dorsal Vessel muscle. The cells maintain their contractile properties. The cells can be attached to a micro pillar substrate for ease of manipulation. Their preparation actively contrated for over 90 days at room temperature & they could control the contractions by electrical stimulation. They conclude that insect dorsal vessel muscle has good potential as a bioactuator.
*Yoshitake Akiyama, Kikuo Iwabuchi, Yuji Furukawa, and Keisume Morishima. 2008. Culture of Insect Heart Muscle Tissue and Its Applicability to Bio-Actuators. Mater. Res. Soc. Symp. Proc. Vol. 1096 © 2008 Materials Research Society