They built a living jellyfish out of a rat’s heart.

Nature voyages to the Island of Dr. Moreau… or at least in the same region… to speak with a scientist who enthusiastically made a living jellyfish out of a rat’s heart:

“Morphologically, we’ve built a jellyfish. Functionally, we’ve built a jellyfish. Genetically, this thing is a rat,” says Kit Parker, a biophysicist at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, who led the work. The project is described today in Nature Biotechnology.

In 2007, Parker was searching for new ways of studying muscular pumps when he visited the New England Aquarium in Boston, Massachusetts. “I saw the jellyfish display and it hit me like a thunderbolt,” he says. “I thought: I know I can build that.” To do so, he recruited John Dabiri, a bioengineer who studies biological propulsion at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) in Pasadena. “I grabbed him and said, ‘John, I think I can build a jellyfish.’ He didn’t know who I was, but I was pretty excited and waving my arms, and I think he was afraid to say no.”

They also hope to reverse-engineer other marine life forms, says Parker. “We’ve got a whole tank of stuff in there, and an octopus on order.”

Video of the rat-jellyfish pulsating at the link.

[via Mr. Goodstein]