Scientists have recently made a groundbreaking discovery in the field of tissue engineering with the creation of tiny robots, known as ‘anthrobots,’ made entirely of human cells. These anthrobots have the potential to revolutionize personalized medicine by repairing damaged neural tissue. This research is being hailed as the next step in “tissue engineering 2.0,” which could lead to the synthetically controlled development of a wide range of processes.
Prior to this breakthrough, researchers had developed similar robots called ‘xenobots,’ but they were made from clumps of embryonic frog cells. Unlike the xenobots, the anthrobots have significant medical applications because they are derived from human cells and do not require manual shaping. These self-assembling anthrobots are currently being investigated for their therapeutic potential using human tissue grown in a lab.
The process of creating anthrobots involves growing spheroids of human tracheal skin cells in a gel for two weeks. Afterward, the clusters are transferred to a less viscous solution, which stimulates the tiny hairs on the cells called cilia to move outward. These cilia serve as oars, allowing the anthrobots to swim in various patterns.
To assess their therapeutic capabilities, researchers placed multiple anthrobots in a small dish and observed their behavior. Surprisingly, the anthrobots fused together, forming a larger structure known as a ‘superbot.’ This superbot was then placed on a layer of scratched neural tissue. In just three days, the superbot had completely healed the damaged neural tissue, even without any genetic modification.
The team of scientists believes that anthrobots created from a person’s own tissue could be employed in various applications, including clearing arteries, breaking up mucus, delivering drugs, and potentially even regrowing limbs. By combining different cell types and exploring alternative stimuli, they hope to develop ‘biobots’ made entirely of biological material. These biobots could have far-reaching applications, not only in healthcare but also in sustainable construction and outer space exploration.
The development of these anthrobots represents a significant advancement in the field of regenerative medicine. While further testing and research are necessary, the potential for personalized, self-assembling robots made from human cells to repair damaged tissue holds immense promise. This groundbreaking work paves the way for a future where synthetic control of developmental processes becomes a reality.
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