The cells are not actually alive, behave as if they were
Humans have long been fascinated by stories about the living dead, which is why it is perfectly understandable that the “zombie” cells created by a team of researchers in New Mexico are now making headlines.The scientists who helped develop these so-called zombie cells explain that, although these are not in the least alive, they are well capable of behaving as if they were.
Furthermore, it seems that, in certain aspects, they even outperform their truly alive counterparts.
As the researchers explain, these zombie cells can withstand extreme temperatures and pressures far better than flesh can.
Huffington Post informs us that, all things considered, these silica cells are near-perfect replicas of mammalian ones.
In order to engineer them, the researchers first deposited silica onto the tiny structures that stand at the core of living cells. Then, they proceeded to heating these cells, causing them to lose the proteins they contained.
This translated into the cells keeping their shape despite their losing all of their living components.
Commenting on this achievement, Dr. Jeffrey Brinker, a professor currently working with the University of New Mexico, made a case of how these zombie cells are no more and no less than a “robust, three-dimensionally stable form that resists shrinkage even upon heating to over 500 degrees Centigrade [932 degrees Fahrenheit].”
On the other hand, Dr. Bryan Kaehr, a materials scientist currently working with the Sandia National Laboratories in Albuquerque, wished to emphasize that, “It's very challenging for researchers to build structures at the nanometer scale. We can make particles and wires, but 3-D arbitrary structures haven't been achieved yet.”
“With this technique, we don't need to build those structures: nature does it for us,” Dr. Bryan Kaehr went on to add.
Apparently, such zombie cells could be used to piece together machines not from bits and pieces of metal, but from atoms and molecules.
Industries ranging from the manufacture of sensors to the production of catalysts and fuel cells have been listed as potential fields of application.