Scientists have managed to do something truly groundbreaking. According to a new paper published in Advanced Science, researchers have created programmable cyborg cells that could help revolutionize medicine and environmental cleanup efforts.
The new research, which was carried out by researchers at the University of California, Davis, shows that it is possible to create semi-living cyborg cells that retain the capabilities of living cells, but are unable to divide and grow. These programmable cells are a significant breakthrough because they can’t reproduce.
Artificial cells must be capable of performing controlled actions in order to make them useful. This isn’t easy when the cells can replicate, as they can quickly get out of control. Researchers have created a way to control the growth and division of artificial cells by programming them.
Because it can be controlled so well, these new cells could be extremely useful for cleaning up pollution and even as a targeted treatment for diseases like cancer. By most standards, engineering cells relies on two methods – remodeling existing cells or creating artificial cells with limited abilities. The new programming-friendly cyborg cell introduces a third way to create artificial cells.
Now, the researchers have shown that you can create artificial cells that you can program by using bacterial cells as the foundation. The researchers then took cells from the lab and made additions to artificial polymer. This was exposed to ultraviolet light, so that it could form a hydrogel matrix. This allows the programmable cyborg cells to endure higher stress than normal cells.
Interestingly, the researchers say they aren’t quite sure yet what stops the cells from replicating. This is something that they need to discover before these programmable, cyborg-like cells are made more widely. But, the foundation laid here could open doors for a lot of new research that may prove extremely useful down the line.
This isn’t the first time we’ve seen researchers doing amazing things with cells, either. Previously, scientists grew living cells on a robot skeleton, and we’ve even seen experiments that combined human brain cells with a living rat’s brain.
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