Inspenet, December 6, 2023.
A team of researchers from Tufts University and the Wyss Institute at Harvard University has developed tiny living robots using human cells. These robots called “anthrobots” exhibit the ability to move on a laboratory plate and a future potential is seen for their application in the healing of wounds or injured tissues.
This groundbreaking study builds on previous research by some of the same scientists who previously created xenobots, which were living organisms built from African clawed frog embryonic stem cells.
Anthrobots: promising tiny robots
Scientists have called recent robots “anthrobots.” According to Michael Levin, author of the study and Vannevar Bush professor of biology at Tufts School of Arts and Sciences, these anthropobots did not experience a full life cycle while active.
To create these anthrobots, the researchers used adult human trachea cells obtained from anonymous donors of various ages and genders. The choice of these cells is based on their easy accessibility due to research related to Covid-19 and lung diseases. Tracheal cells have hair-like projections known as cilia, which move back and forth, assisting in the expulsion of small particles that enter the lung airways.
Gizem Gumuskaya, a doctoral student at Tufts and co-author of the study, explained that they carried out experiments to modify the chemical composition of the growth conditions of tracheal cells. They managed to orient the cilia outwards, towards what are known as organoids, by finding the appropriate matrix.
With their method, each antrobot develops from a single cell , which implies that no two are identical. Some had a spherical shape and were completely covered in cilia, while others had a shape similar to that of a soccer ball and irregularly arranged cilia. Some were observed moving in straight lines, others in tight circles, and many remained in place while moving. According to a press release, these robots demonstrated the ability to survive up to 60 days in laboratory conditions .
In the long term, the purpose of these studies is to determine if anthropobots can have medical applications. To evaluate this possibility, the researchers examined its ability to move on human neurons cultured in a laboratory dish. These neurons were previously “damaged” in a controlled manner.
The results revealed that the anthropobots stimulated growth in the damaged region of neurons. Although the healing process is not fully understood, the research findings were published in the journal Advanced Science.
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