These tiny robots are made of human cells and could revolutionize medicine


Artificial robots flowing through human veins might sound like story material for a 21st-century cinematic reboot of Fantastic Voyage. But a new study conducted by Harvard University biologists demonstrates the real benefits of such a “fantastic” science fiction concept.

These “anthropobots” measure between 30 and 500 micrometers, that is, from the width of a human hair to the tip of a sharpened pencil, and they’re not made of flashing lights and metal like some kind of tiny R2-D2. . These biobots are made from cells extracted from the surface of an adult human trachea. In a new study published in mid-November in the journal advanced scienceHarvard biologist Mark Levin and his team detail how these advanced biobots could become important therapeutic tools for repairing damaged neurons and treating diseases.

“It is fascinating and completely unexpected that patients’ normal tracheal cells, without having their DNA modified, can move on their own and promote the growth of neurons through the damaged area,” Levin said in a press release. Are.” “Now we are studying how the healing mechanism works and wondering what else these structures can do.”

Thrombotes begin as a single cell covered with hair-like cilia. When grown in the lab, scientists encourage these cilia to look outward in lab-grown organoids. Within a few days, the anthrobots begin to use these cilia – with their different shapes, sizes and characteristics – to move. After 45 to 60 days, Anthrobots naturally biodegrade.

In the study, Levin and Harvard doctoral student Gizem Gumushkaya grew a 2D layer of human neurons and simulated a wound by scratching the layer with a thin metal rod. Scientists then filled the gap with groups of specialized anthrobots – called “superbots” – that were designed not to move away from a simulated wound. Interestingly, these unmodified biobots accelerated the growth of neurons, leading to wound healing (at least in the 2D laboratory sense).

These anthrobots improve upon previous models called “xenobots” developed by Levin and Gumuskaya, but are more advanced and comfortable.

“Anthrobots self-assemble on a lab plate,” Gumushkaya explained in a press release. “Unlike xenobots, they don’t require tweezers or scalpels to shape, and we can use adult cells instead of fetal cells – even from elderly patients. It’s completely scalable “We can produce swarms of these robots in parallel, which is a good start to developing a therapeutic device.”

Healing artificial wounds in the lab is just the beginning of these Anthrobots’ “fantastic journey.” Further development could lead to robots that would clear plaque-clogged arteries or repair spinal cord damage. With such a small therapeutic device, Enterbots can also deliver much-needed drugs to target cells and become particularly powerful allies in the fight against cancer.

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