Biobots: Researchers Attempting To Remotely Control Live Moths
Can we remotely control living things? Researchers from North Carolina State University aim to control the movement of moths by manipulating the electronic signals that direct their muscles.
In this study, the research team implanted electrodes into moths during their pupal stage, or while the caterpillar is encased in a cocoon. Performing the surgical procedure during the pupal stage reduced the trauma to the moths, and attaching the electrodes to the muscles that are primarily responsible for flight allowed the researchers to learn more about the moths' flight mechanisms. The electrodes were able to receive the electric signals from the muscles that power flight, potentially allowing the researchers to control the flight of moths using simulated electric signals.
"By watching how the moth uses its wings to steer while in flight, and matching those movements with their corresponding electromyographic signals, we're getting a much better understanding of how moths maneuver through the air. We're optimistic that this information will help us develop technologies to remotely control the movements of moths in flight. That's essential to the overarching goal of creating biobots that can be part of a cyberphysical sensor network," said Dr. Alper Bozkurt, co-author and assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering.
This technology could have many significant real-world applications, not the least of which would be enlisting the assistance of moths in search-and-rescue operations. "The idea would be to attach sensors to moths in order to create a flexible, aerial sensor network that can identify survivors or public health hazards in the wake of a disaster," said Bozkurt.
There is still a lot of work to be done before this goal can be achieved, but Bozkurt is confident that this study will pave the way: "Next steps include developing an automated system to explore and fine-tune parameters for controlling moth flight, further miniaturizing the technology, and testing the technology in free-flying moths."
Via Science Daily