Scientists create semi-living cyborg cells capable of making a quantum leap in medicine!
Using a complex chemical process, scientists managed to grow universal synthetic “cyborg” cells in the laboratory.
It has many of the characteristics of living cells, but lacks the ability to divide and grow.
And this asymmetric part is important. For synthetic cells to be useful, they must be carefully controlled, which cannot be easily achieved if they reproduce in the same way as real cells.
The researchers behind the new development believe these cyborgs could have a variety of uses, from improving the treatment of diseases like cancer to cleaning up contaminants through targeted chemical processes.
“Cyborg cells are programmable, do not divide, maintain basic cellular activity, and acquire non-native abilities,” says biomedical engineer Chiming Tan of the University of California, Davis.
Currently, cell engineering relies on two main approaches: the genetic reconfiguration of existing cells to give them new functions (more flexible, but capable of proliferation) and the creation of synthetic cells from scratch (which cannot reproduce, but have limited biological functions).
These cyborg cells are the result of a new third strategy. The researchers took bacterial cells as a basis and added synthetic polymer elements. Once inside the cell, the polymer was exposed to ultraviolet light to be incorporated into the hydrogel matrix by cross-linking, mimicking the natural extracellular matrix.
While they are able to maintain many of their normal biological functions, these cyborg cells appear to be more resistant to stresses such as high pH and exposure to antibiotics, stressors that kill normal cells.
“Cyborg cells support basic functions including cellular metabolism, movement, protein synthesis, and compatibility with genetic circuits,” the researchers wrote in their published paper.
Laboratory tests on tissue samples have shown that the newly developed cells are capable of infiltrating cancer cells, highlighting the potential of these modified biological building blocks to treat the health of the future – they could one day be used to deliver drugs to very specific parts of the body. .
This is still far away, promising such early results. The researchers say they now want to experiment with different materials to create these cells, as well as find out how they can be used.
It is also unclear what exactly prevents cells from multiplying, which needs to be determined. The researchers believe the hydrogel matrix could stop cell division by inhibiting cell growth or DNA replication, or both.
The blending of the natural and the artificial shown here in some way eliminates the best elements of both, opening up new possibilities – a “living” state, as the researchers put it.
“We are interested in the bioethics of using cyborg cells because they are biomaterials derived from cells that are neither cells nor materials,” Tan says.
The study is published in the journal Advanced Science.
Source: Science Alert