Anthrobots: Human Cell-Based Robots with Autonomous Movement and Healing Abilities


Scientists have successfully developed “anthrobots” using human lung cells, demonstrating remarkable abilities to move autonomously and promote tissue healing. Building on their previous creation of “xenobots” from frog cells, the researchers, led by biologist Michael Levin from Tufts University, have now crafted robot-like entities from human cells. These anthrobots, named for their origin in human tissues, boast hairlike protein appendages called cilia on their surfaces, propelling them through fluids by coordinated movements.

The anthrobots exhibit distinct shapes and behaviors, akin to strains or groups within a species. Beyond swimming capabilities, these entities showcase the potential to induce rudimentary wound healing in layers of human cells, suggesting applications in the field of medicine. The cilia’s synchronized beating enables the anthrobots to move effectively, providing a basis for their mobility.

While some scientists remain skeptical about the significance of these human cell clusters, arguing that the excitement surrounding spontaneously forming entities is exaggerated, Levin contends that a paradigm shift is needed. Rather than viewing these clusters merely as tissue fragments for biological study, Levin proposes recognizing them as organism-like entities with unique shapes and behaviors. He envisions them as a “biorobotics platform” with potential medical applications, emphasizing the systematic modification of their characteristics to achieve useful behaviors such as repairing damaged tissues within the human body.

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