A Stress-Testing Machine to Gently Grasp a Jellyfish

A new era dawns, perhaps, in how humans try and perhaps succeed in gently handling squishy marine animals. A new study gives details.

Ultra-gentle soft robotic fingers induce minimal transcriptomic response in a fragile marine animal,” Michael Tessler, Mercer R. Brugler, John A. Burns, Nina R. Sinatra, Daniel M. Vogt, Anand Varma, Madelyne Xiao, Robert J. Wood, and David F. Gruber,” Current Biology, vol. 30, no. 4, February 24, 2020, pp. R157–R158. The authors report:

“while the premise of being ‘gentle’ when handling animals seems intuitive, the hypothesis that newly developed soft robotic grippers have a lower impact on an animal’s stress response had remained untested. Herein we present results from a stress-focused experiment that compares the transcriptional response of a jellyfish (Aurelia aurita) after various forms of physical manipulation, focusing on the impact of new ultra-gentle soft robotic actuating fingers that were specifically developed for jellyfish but have wider applications (e.g., surgical devices and crop harvesting). We find that soft robotic fingers induce significantly less change in gene expression compared to a more traditional rigid claw-grab.”

Further details and images, including the one below, are also on offer from the Wyss Institute.