Scientists at Tufts University and Harvard University have created tiny "robots" out of human cells, that they call anthrobots. They used human cells from the trachea, and had them form into clumps called organioids. They then found a way to encourage cilia, hairlike projections, to face outwards on the organoids, which were then used by the organoids to move around.
Link to the article on CNN.com here.
The anthrobots the team created weren't identical.
Some were spherical and fully covered in cilia, while others were shaped more like a football and covered irregularly with cilia. They also moved in different ways — some in straight lines, some in tight circles, while others sat around and wiggled, according to a news release on the study. They survived up to 60 days in laboratory conditions.
When the scientists tested whether these anthrobots could be used medically, they were surprised to find that they can help repair other human cells.
The experiments outlined in this latest study are at an early stage, but the goal is to find out whether the anthrobots could have medical applications, [study co-authors Michael Levin, Vannevar Bush professor of biology at Tufts' School of Arts & Sciences and Gizem Gumuskaya, a doctoral student at Tufts] said. To see whether such applications might be possible, researchers examined whether the anthrobots were able to move over human neurons grown in a lab dish that had been "scratched" to mimic damage.
They were surprised to see the anthrobots encouraged growth to the damaged region of the neurons, although the researchers don't yet understand thehealing mechanism, the study noted.