Jump to Topics

Cyborg cells show potential in cancer therapy

Cyborg cells show potential in cancer therapy

UC Davis researchers make programmable and resilient cyborg cells that can invade cancer cells
Bacterial cells
Representational image | Shutterstock

Cyborg cells with both natural and artificial properties might sound like science fiction. But in a lab in California, such cells have become a reality. By embedding a live bacterial cell with the basic units of an artificial polymer, researchers may have made the cell of the future.  

In a study published in Advanced Science, researchers from the University of California, Davis say the hybrid cells combine the function of living cells with the resilience of synthetic materials. 

“The cyborg cells are programmable, do not divide, preserve essential cellular activities, and gain non-native abilities,” says Cheemeng Tan, associate professor of biomedical engineering at UC Davis and senior author of the paper. 

These cells could be used in targeted therapies for everything from cancer to disrupted gut microbiomes. 

Creating a cyborg cell 

The new approach to creating cyborg cells combines existing techniques to program cells. 

Converging artificial and living systems, Tan’s team infused artificial polymers into a bacterial cell. Their recipe? Using ultraviolet light to form a cross-linked hydrogel matrix within the bacterial cell. 

Tan added that until now there have been essentially two ways to engineer a cell to carry out novel functions. In the first approach, the living cell DNA is modified to carry out specific functions. However, this technique produces cells that can still reproduce – which not only makes them hard to control but can also lead to the contamination of other biological systems. 

The new technique makes these artificial cells with a synthetic membrane. This ensures that the cell does not reproduce and limits it to performing a fixed set of functions. 

More resilient than living cells 

In lab tests, the cyborg cells were more resistant than living cells to environmental stressors. This includes exposure to hydrogen peroxide, antibiotics and acidic or basic environments. 

The researchers also demonstrated how such cells could invade lab-grown cancer cells. 

“We are excited about the potential applications of the cyborg cells to solve environmental challenges, diagnose or treat diseases, and modulate disrupted microbiota,” Tan said, adding that the team is now looking into how to control these cyborg cells and study the effect of different matrix materials in the bacterial cells.  

This latest work builds on the work of Tan’s lab which is looking to build novel synthetic cells that will be deemed safe to be used for environmental remediation, cancer therapy and antipathogen treatments. 


Share Your Experience/Comments

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *



Physical activity improves the quality as well as duration of sleep. But exercising too close to bedtime is not advisable
While what causes Bell’s palsy is unknown, use of modern medicine along with holistic approaches could offer quick relief
CPR or cardiopulmonary resuscitation is an emergency lifesaving procedure performed when the heart stops beating. According to American Heart Association, immediate CPR can double or triple chances of survival after cardiac arrest. Keeping the blood flow active, even partially, extends the opportunity for a successful resuscitation once trained medical staff arrive on site. It is an important lifesaving first-aid tool that can be performed by anyone.




Opt-in To Our Daily Newsletter

* Please check your Spam folder for the Opt-in confirmation mail
We use cookies to customize your user experience, view our policy here

Your feedback has been submitted successfully.

The Happiest Health team will reach out to you at the earliest