Over the past decade, interest in developing biobots — tiny machines made of biological tissues — has grown rapidly, and not without justification: potential applications in human practice ranged from insulin production to spinal reconstruction, and a group of American researchers have announced that they have been able to create biobots from human cells that can help heal nerve tissue.
In 2020, researchers from the University of Tufts and the University of Vermont created the first tiny biological robots from frog skin cells. These robots, called xenobots, can swim in fluids, push useful goods, work together, and even recover from damage. Next year, they presented an improved version of their xenobots: they moved faster, but more importantly, they could self-repeat from separate cells.
Is the ability to create a self-propelled multicellular living structure with a different body structure and behavior from a standard species limited by the embryo tissue of amphibians? To verify this, the same team developed a new biobot form using epithelial human bronchial cells, the aim of which is to develop robots more compatible with the human body for potential future medical applications.
Bridge biobots that heal wounds
These tiny machines, called anthrobots, are multicellular biological robots of sphericoid shape and with a diameter of between 30 and 500 micrometres. With eyelashes covering their surface, they are able to travel in the aquatic environment at a rate of between 5 and 50 μm/s." Research explains. Once anthrobots are formed, they can survive for four to six weeks and are fully biodegradable.
Anthropobots can take different morphologys, so these robots can follow several models of motion and are therefore able to travel through the living human tissue in different ways.
But that's not all of it: anthrobots show completely unexpected behavior, given their origin from static epithelial trachea; they can cross wounds into a person's nervous tissue! Based on this observation, researchers wanted to see how these robots behave in the presence of other cells. In a laboratory experiment, biologist Michael Levin and his colleagues first collected several anthrobots in a small space to facilitate their association into superbots.
Then they put these superbots in several areas of damaged living tissue consisting of human neurons cells, so that they cover the entire width of the damage. The result was amazing: "" describes the team in its own .
It should be noted that this healing has only been observed at superbot inoculation sites and at no other point inside the injury, suggesting that anthropobot assemblies cause effective healing of living nerve tissue.
This opens up a number of biomedical applications. There are many possible applications in vitro and in vivo for these living machines, not least because they can now consist of patient's own cells. "," researchers say.
For example, these robots can be used to remove atherosclerotic plaques from patients with atherosclerosis, to deliver drugs locally, or to treat cyclic injuries that may occur after stroke or paralysis. Now the team plans to try to create anthropototes from other types of cells, to study their behaviour in different environments and possibly to discover other useful capabilities.