Tuesday, July 16, 2024

Tiny Biobots Pioneering Neuron Regrowth And Tissue Healing

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The future of regenerative medicine lies in Anthrobots, miniature biological robots designed for neuron repair and tissue healing, heralding new therapeutic innovations.

Human tracheal skin cells self-assemble into multi-cellular, moving organoids called Anthrobots. These images show Anthrobots with cilia on their surface (yellow) distributed in different patterns. Surface patterns of cilia are correlated with different movement patterns: circular, wiggling, long curves or straight lines. Credit: Gizem Gumuskaya, Tufts University
Human tracheal skin cells self-assemble into multi-cellular, moving organoids called Anthrobots. These images show Anthrobots with cilia on their surface (yellow) distributed in different patterns. Surface patterns of cilia are correlated with different movement patterns: circular, wiggling, long curves or straight lines. Credit: Gizem Gumuskaya, Tufts University

Researchers from Tufts University and the Wyss Institute at Harvard University have developed biologically named Anthrobots using human tracheal cells. These robots can move on surfaces and potentially promote neuron growth across damaged areas in laboratory settings.

How are Anthrobots made?

The researchers refined growth conditions to orient the cilia outward on organoids, marking the first significant observation in their robotics platform. They noted various shapes and movement types, indicating the potential for these Anthrobots to navigate and function within the body or assist in constructing engineered tissues in the lab. The team categorised the Anthrobots, which ranged from 30 to 500 micrometres in size. These bots were either spherical and fully ciliated, irregular or football-shaped with sporadic cilia coverage, or covered on one side. Their movements varied from straight lines and tight circles to combinations of these or simple wiggling. Spherical, cilia-covered bots primarily wiggled, while those with uneven cilia distribution moved more consistently in straight or curved paths. Typically, the Anthrobots lasted 45-60 days in lab conditions before biodegrading naturally.

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Little healers

The team, focusing on the therapeutic potential of Anthrobots, designed a lab experiment to evaluate their wound-healing capabilities. They grew a neuron layer from neural stem cells and simulated a wound by scratching it. To increase Anthrobot exposure to the wound, they created “superbots” – clusters of primarily circling and wiggling Anthrobots. Surprisingly, even without genetic modifications, these Anthrobots significantly promoted neural regrowth, bridging gaps as effectively as the surrounding healthy cells, a phenomenon not observed in Anthrobot-free areas. This experiment suggests that Anthrobot assemblies could effectively heal live neural tissue. The team believes these biobots could have broader applications, such as clearing arterial plaque, repairing nerve damage, detecting harmful cells, or delivering targeted drug treatments, potentially aiding in tissue healing and dispensing pro-regenerative drugs.

Making new blueprints, restoring old ones

Utilising the flexibility of cellular assembly, scientists can build biobots and unravel how genomes and environments interact to form and potentially regenerate tissues, organs, and limbs.

Reference: Motile Living Biobots Self-Construct from Adult Human Somatic Progenitor Seed Cells, Advanced Science (2023).

Nidhi Agarwal
Nidhi Agarwal
Nidhi Agarwal is a journalist at EFY. She is an Electronics and Communication Engineer with over five years of academic experience. Her expertise lies in working with development boards and IoT cloud. She enjoys writing as it enables her to share her knowledge and insights related to electronics, with like-minded techies.

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