From bacteria received "cyborgs" resistant to antibiotics and acidity

Bioengineers at the University of California, Davis have turned bacteria into semi-living "cyborg cells". They are

retain basic biological functions, but are unable to reproduce. Such "castrated" bacteria can be used for drug delivery and medical research.

In a paper published in Advanced Science,The researchers describe a new approach to synthetic biology. They filled living bacterial cells with the basic units of an artificial polymer. The polymer placed inside the cell is packaged in a hydrogel matrix using ultraviolet light. The modified cells retained almost all functions, but could not multiply.

Device (left) and production (right) of cyborg cells. Image: Luis E. Contreras-Llano et al., Advanced Science

Traditionally, to create cells with the desiredfunctions, scientists use either a living bacterial cell with edited DNA, or an artificial cell with a synthetic membrane and biomolecules. Each of them has its drawbacks: a living cell is more flexible, but at the same time it is able to multiply and mutate, while an artificial one is too primitive and solves a small range of problems.

Researchers have found that cyborg cellsmore resistant to stressors that would kill normal cells. For example, they have shown resistance to hydrogen peroxide, antibiotics, or high pH. In an experiment, biologists created cyborg bacteria that could get inside cancer cells.

Researchers will continue to analyze variousmaterials for biosynthetic cells. They hope that the finished cyborg bacteria will find a wide range of applications, from environmental problems to the diagnosis and treatment of diseases.

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