For a long time, scientists have wanted to engineer cilia to make the ultimate biosensor.
Cilia can behave in so many ways — the hair-like cell appendages can pick up sounds from the environment, sense things in the kidney, or protect against disease by transporting mucus around in the lungs. Cilia collect sensory information and help organisms move around.
The fact that the University of Southern Mississippi scientists have made artificial cilia could be a game changing discovery.
Facing outwards on surfaces like human skin, cilia are ideally positioned to respond to electromagnetic, chemical, and thermal cues.
Cilia help humans, animals, and organisms sense what's going on around them.
In a similar way, the man-made cilia can smell, see, hear, and pick up on the fluids around it by detecting a change in pH, temperature, and electromagnetic radiation.
The fake cilia is made with a new thin co-polymer film that sticks out of the surface to copy what real cilia does.
“I believe this is the future of science and engineering that will drive future technologies,” Mississippi professor Marek Urban said in a statement.
Urban created the artificial cilia out of thin copolymer-based films. The new sensors can respond to the changes in the environment or change color when exposed to ultraviolet radiation.
By engineering this functionality in biosensors, it opens up ways to test for toxins or the presence of certain gases.
The possibilities are endless. You could put it in water to test if the water is safe to consume. You can test pH in food. Anything you can imagine what you would test for, this would be used to test.
Other scientists like the University of North Carolina researchers have developed man-made cilia too. The hope is to improve treatments for respiratory system diseases, but getting fake cilia to act like the real deal will take a while.
This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com