Scientists at Tufts University in Massachusetts have made a groundbreaking development in the field of regenerative medicine. They have created tiny robots, named “anthrobots,” using human cells that have the ability to repair damaged neural tissue. This cutting-edge research opens up new possibilities in personalized medicine and demonstrates a novel approach known as “tissue engineering 2.0.”
Unlike previous prototypes called “xenobots,” which lacked medical applications as they were not made from human cells, the anthrobots are derived directly from human tracheal cells. The researchers cultivated spheroids of human tracheal skin cells in a gel, causing the tiny hairs on the cells, known as cilia, to move outward. The resulting anthrobots, each consisting of a few hundred cells, exhibited various swimming patterns including straight lines, circles, and arcs.
One of the most astonishing findings of the research was that when placed on a layer of scratched neural tissue, several anthrobots fused together to form a “superbot.” Within just three days, this superbot successfully healed the damaged tissue. Remarkably, this repair function was carried out without any genetic modification to the anthrobot cells.
The implications of this discovery are significant. The researchers speculate that anthrobots made from a person’s own tissue could be utilized in a range of medical applications such as clearing arteries, breaking up mucus, and delivering drugs. The potential to develop these anthrobots without genetic engineering is particularly exciting, as it eliminates complexities and ethical concerns associated with modifying the human genetic code.
Looking ahead, the team plans to explore the use of different cell types and stimuli, hoping to develop advanced biobots with applications in sustainable construction and outer-space exploration. The ultimate ambition is to utilize this technology in regenerative medicine, including the ambitious goal of regrowing limbs.
While the path to achieving this may still be long and challenging, the development of these anthrobots represents a significant step forward in the field of tissue engineering. As scientists continue to push boundaries and uncover new possibilities, society may witness groundbreaking advancements that were once the realm of science fiction.
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