Cyborg Cells – As healthcare costs continue to rise, the challenge is not only to reduce those costs but also to improve care. One way to do this is through digital management of chronic disease.
A growing number of researchers are working with biological materials to build machines that move on their own. They’re calling them cyborg cells. These devices have the potential to change health and healing.
Biohybrid devices take advantage of the unique characteristics of living tissue. For example, they can respond to chemicals and magnetic stimuli. They also have regenerative capacity and can eat without being plugged in, unlike most artificial microswimmers.
Biohybrid Devices Propelled by Living Cells:
For instance, Harvard researchers have created a tiny silicone jellyfish coated with rat cardiomyocytes that can contract and propel the robot through water. Similarly, a team at Caltech has developed a biohybrid device called a medusoid that can swim through nutrient-rich water by undulating its arms.
Challenges in Biohybrid Robot Fabrication and Maintenance:
The ability to construct and control these biohybrid devices requires the development of a variety of fabrication approaches that will enable scalable, reproducible, and reusable robotic actuators. In particular, biohybrid robots requiring macroscale bio-patterning need to address challenges in fabrication, vascularization, and tissue maintenance.
Biobots are a new class of 3D-printed biological machines that can be used for drug testing, pre-clinical screening and medical research. They are designed to mimic the complex and dynamic functions of human cells.
Pioneering Biobots Controlled with Electrical Pulses:
The first biobots were designed by Rashid Bashir at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. They consisted of a jelly-like hydrogel strip lined with rat cardiac cells perched on a rigid base.
Using this approach, Bashir was able to control the motion of the biobot with electrical pulses. When the muscle twitched, the cantilever would flex and propel the bot forward.
Biobots with Improved Responsiveness using Skeletal Muscle Cells:
To make the biobots more responsive, Bashir switched from rat cardiac cells to skeletal muscle cells from mice. He deposited the muscle cells on a skeleton of 3-D printed hydrogel that had been shaped to form a bench-like structure.
They were then inserted into dishes that were placed in an electrically conductive fluid and zapped with a series of electric pulses. Those electric pulses stimulated the muscle and drove the biobot to move forward at speeds of about one-third of an inch per second.
Biomanufacturing is a type of manufacturing that uses biological systems – mainly microorganisms and cell cultures – to produce commercially important biomolecules for use in the agricultural, food, material, energy and pharmaceutical industries.
Challenges of Consistent Production:
Biopharmaceutical manufacturing primarily uses living cells to produce therapies that treat diseases like cancer, diabetes and autoimmune disorders. The biopharmaceutical industry faces unique challenges to produce drugs in living cells that are identical from batch to batch.
Challenges and Innovations in Biopharmaceutical Manufacturing:
This reliance on live cells requires careful control in each step of the process. All workers must comply with Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP), regulated by the Food and Drug Administration, to ensure consistent product quality.
In addition, the industry is investing in automation. Known as “Bioprocessing 4.0,” this new revolution aims to make manufacturing more efficient by using advanced monitoring and simulation technologies. It would allow for more rapid product development, which in turn leads to quicker time-to-market of new medicines and therapeutics.
Bioethics is a field that studies ethical, legal, and social issues that arise in the study and practice of medicine and biomedical research. It encompasses medical ethics, research ethics, environmental ethics, and public health ethics.
The field of bioethics is evolving rapidly as advances in science and technology increase our understanding of the human body. It is also becoming more sensitive to the human experience, particularly a person’s personal narrative.
One of the major challenges for a bioethicist who is involved in policy-oriented bioethics, or a member of a national commission, or a member of an ethics committee, is how to use moral theory in the course of making decisions affecting many people’s lives on issues that are highly morally relevant.
For example, a bioethicist might face a dilemma when her ethically informed consent is rejected because she is Kantian or libertarian, or because of a disagreement between members of a commission over the application of rule utilitarianism or Rawlsian neo-liberalism to an issue.