Emma Sulaiman, Staff Writer
Researchers have created Anthrobots, or tiny robots, out of human lung cells that are capable of moving independently in a petri dish. Scientists are hoping that this discovery may one day help heal wounds and even damaged tissue. These cells have tiny hair follicles called cilia on their surface that wave back and forth to distribute mucus and can therefore rid the body of debris, which is the key to making these nanobots.
This work stems from a previous study that resulted in the creation of Xenobots, made from stem cells of amphibians done by Tufts University and Harvard University’s Wyss Institute. In Mark Levin, Ph.D.'s laboratories, it was found that these Xenobots could self-assemble; this finding wasn’t so surprising since amphibians are known for their ability to regenerate body parts if damaged.
In Levin’s current study along with Ph.D. student Gizem Gumuskaya, they created Anthrobots, which are made starting from one tiny tracheal cell derived from an adult donor. These cells are already covered with cilia, which are essential for clearing the air passageways in our lungs.
Scientists noted movement and shapes in different forms. Some moved in a straight line, some in groups of circles, and some simply wiggled. So, unlike Xenobots, they have the ability to move on their own, which could potentially mean that they could eventually be able to heal human wounds at the cellular level. They naturally degenerate after a 45-60 day life span in laboratory conditions.
Falk Tauber, a group leader at the Freiburg Center for Interactive Materials and Bioinspired Technologies at the University of Freiburg in Germany, stated that these Anthrobots showed surprising behavior as they closed scratches in human neurons.
Levin stated, “We don’t realize all the competencies that our own body cells have.” This finding raises the question of whether these are animals or machines. However, he stated that the Anthrobots are not full-fledged organisms since they didn’t have a full life cycle.
This finding is a great advancement in regard to biobots and is the fundamental basis for further advancements in this field to achieve tissue healing in humans.