Engineering Motile Cellular Robots
Some eukaryotic cells, such as white blood cells, have the amazing ability to sense specific external chemical signals and move toward those signals. This behavior, known as chemotaxis, is a fundamental biological process crucial to such diverse functions as development, wound healing and immune response. In our project, we used a synthetic biology approach to manipulate signaling pathways that mediate chemotaxis in two model organisms:
HL-60 (neutrophil-like) cells and the slime mold, Dictyostelium discoideum.
In doing so, we have demonstrated that we can regulate both the navigation and speed of our cells, as well as harness their ability to carry a payload.
Through our manipulations, we hope to better understand how these systems work, and eventually to build or reprogram cells that can perform useful tasks. Imagine, for example, therapeutic nanorobots that could home to a directed site in the body and execute complex, user-defined functions (e.g., kill tumors, deliver drugs, guide stem cell migration and differentiation). Alternatively, imagine bioremediation nanorobots that could find and retrieve toxic substances. Such cellular robots could be revolutionary biotechnological tools.
UCSF iGEM 2009 is sponsored by...