In a groundbreaking study published in the journal Advanced Science, researchers have developed minute robots crafted from human cells, presenting the potential for applications in wound healing, tissue regeneration, and disease treatment. Termed “anthrobots,” these multicellular entities have exhibited autonomous movement and the capability to repair and regrow damaged regions of neurons.
While the anthrobots have thus far demonstrated their capabilities within a laboratory environment, specifically a petri dish, their prospects are undoubtedly impressive. This research builds upon previous work by the same scientists who introduced the world to the first biological robots, known as “xenobots,” originating from frog stem cells. The latest innovation showcases that similar, if not superior, results can be achieved using human cells, potentially enabling the construction of these bots from a patient’s own cells and minimizing the risk of complications such as tissue rejection.
The anthrobots were created utilizing adult human cells extracted from the trachea, or windpipe, which are equipped with hair-like filaments called cilia. These cilia possess the ability to move and repel foreign material, and importantly, they can aggregate to form multicellular structures known as organoids. Leveraging these features provides the essential components for crafting a biological robot. In laboratory conditions, the researchers guided the cells to form organoids with outward-facing cilia. Within a day, these cilia-covered formations exhibited mobility, moving in straight lines, circles, and occasionally remaining stationary.
While the mobility of these bio-robots varies, the fact that the cells can naturally form such structures underscores their remarkable self-assembly capabilities. Unlike their xenobot counterparts, anthrobots do not require external tools for shaping, allowing the use of adult cells, even from elderly patients, instead of embryonic cells.
To showcase their therapeutic potential, the researchers created 2D layers of human neurons, induced wounds in them, and introduced “superbot” clusters of anthrobots nearby. Remarkably, without additional genetic engineering or programming, the superbots facilitated the regeneration of neurons.
The precise mechanisms behind this healing are not fully elucidated, but the researchers are optimistic about the enormous potential. Unlike inert robots, cells can dynamically communicate and create structures, inherently programmed to execute biological functions. Importantly, these bio-bots safely biodegrade within 60 days, ensuring controlled environmental impact.
Crucially, these bio-bots do not reproduce and cannot survive outside the lab, alleviating concerns about uncontrollable spread. The scientists envision a future where these bio-bots demonstrate sufficient robustness to navigate the complexities of the human body, opening up new frontiers in healthcare and regenerative medicine.
By Impact Lab