Anthropots: Tiny living robots made from human cells surprise scientists

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Scientists have created tiny living robots that can move around from human cells A lab dish and a day can help heal wounds or damaged tissue, according to a new study.

A team from Tufts University and Harvard University’s Wyss Institute dubbed the creations Anthropodes. The research builds on previous work by the same scientists who did it The first living robotsor xenobots, stem cells derived from African clawed frog (Xenopus laevis) embryos.

“Some people thought that the features of cynopods depended heavily on the fact that they were embryos and amphibians,” said Vannevar Bush study author Michael Levine, professor of biology at Tufts School of Arts and Sciences.

“I don’t think it has anything to do with being a fetus. It has nothing to do with the frog. I think it’s a common property of species,” he said.

“We don’t realize all the potential our own body cells have.”

While alive, anthropomorphs are not full-fledged organisms because they are incomplete. life cycle, Levin said.

“It reminds us of these rigid binary categories that we’ve been operating on: Is it a robot, is it an animal, is it a machine? These kinds of things don’t serve us well. We have to go beyond that.”

The report was released on Thursday Journal of Advanced Science.

Gizem Gumuskaya, Tufts University

Kisem Kumuzkaya is a doctoral student at Tufts University who helped create anthropomorphisms.

The scientists used adult human cells from trachea or respiratory tract from anonymous donors of various ages and sexes. The researchers zeroed in on these types of cells because of their relatively easy access to work on Covid-19 and lung disease, and more importantly, because of a feature scientists believed would make the cells capable of movement, said study co-author Kissem. Gumuskaya holds a PhD from Tufts.

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Bronchial cells are covered with hair-like projections called cilia that wave back and forth. They normally help bronchial cells to expel small particles that enter the air passages of the lungs. Previous studies have shown that cells can form organelles—cells widely used for research.

Gumuskaya tested the chemical composition of the growth conditions of bronchial cells and found a way to induce cilia to face outward in organoids. Once they found the right matrix, the organoids moved after a few days, with cilia acting like fins.

“Nothing happened on day one, day two, day four or day five, but as biology usually does, on day seven, there was a rapid change,” he said. “It was like a blooming flower. On the seventh day, the cilia were flipped and exposed.

“In our method, each anthropomorph grows from a single cell.”

It is this self-assembly that makes them unique. Biological robots have been developed by other scientists, but they are built by hand by making a mold and seeding cells, Levin said.

Gizem Gumuskaya, Tufts University

Each anthropomorph grows from a single cell.

Different shapes and sizes

The anthropoids created by the team are not identical.

Some were spherical and completely covered with cilia, while others were football-shaped and irregular with cilia. They also moved in different ways — some in straight lines, some in tight circles, others sitting around and swaying, according to the study’s news release. They survived up to 60 days in laboratory conditions.

The experiments outlined in this latest study are in their early stages, but the goal is to find out if they have clinical applications in humans, Levin and Gumuskaya said. To see if such applications were possible, the researchers studied whether human neurons could be moved over human neurons grown in a laboratory dish that had been “scratched” to mimic damage.

They were surprised to find that the anthropomorphs promoted growth in the damaged area of ​​neurons, something the researchers still don’t understand. The healing process, the study noted.

Falk Tauber, group leader of the Freiburg Center for Interactive Materials and Bio-Inspired Technologies at the University of Freiburg in Germany, said the study provided a basis for future applications of bio-bots for different functions and for developing them in different forms.

Gizem Gumuskaya, Tufts University

An anthropoid, green in color, grows red across an incision through neural tissue.

Tauber, who was not involved in the research, said that across the incisions in human neurons — which eventually closed — human beings exhibited “surprising behavior.”

He said the ability to create these structures from a patient’s own cells suggested a variety of applications in the laboratory and eventually in humans.

Levin said he didn’t think the anthropoids posed any ethical or safety concerns. They are not created from human embryos, through tightly controlled research or genetically modified in any way, he said.

“They have a very enclosed environment, so there’s no way they can escape or live outside of the lab. They can’t live outside of that specific environment,” he said. “They have a natural lifespan, so after a few weeks, they decompose without interruption.”

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