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Artificial cell can be used to destroy germs such as E. coli and clean up pollution in water

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The Pac-Man cell that ‘eats’ bacteria: Artificial cell could be used to destroy germs like E. coli and clean up pollution in water, scientists say

  • Scientists have developed an artificial cell that can eat bacteria – like Pac-Man
  • The cells are the size of red blood cells and can be used to ‘eat’ bad bacteria
  • The cell was created by researchers from the Universities of New York and Chicago










Scientists have developed an artificial cell that can eat bacteria – just like the hungry video game character Pac-Man.

The cells are the size of a red blood cell and can be used to “eat” bad bacteria like E. coli, deliver drugs to sites in the body and clean up pollution in the water.

The Pac-Man cell was created by researchers at the Universities of New York and Chicago by poking a microscopic hole in a sphere made of a polymer to allow matter to enter or exit.

The cell can be made to pump or ‘eat’ by shining a light on it. The research is published in Nature.

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Scientists have developed an artificial cell that can eat bacteria – just like the hungry video game character Pac-Man (stock image)

Stefano Sacanna, an associate professor of chemistry at NYU said, “Think of the cell limitations like the Pac-Man video game: they eat the pollutants and remove them from the environment.”

He added: “Our design concept enables these artificial cell limitations to operate autonomously and perform active transport tasks that have hitherto been limited to the realm of living cells,” adding that the artificial cell can “take up foreign bodies, processing and expelling. ‘

The researchers tested the cell limitations in different environments.

‘In one experiment, they suspended the cell limitations in water, activated them with light and observed them engulf particles or impurities from the water around them, illustrating a potential application for removing microscopic contaminants from water.

The Pac-Man cell was created by researchers at the Universities of New York and Chicago by piercing a microscopic hole in a sphere made of a polymer to allow matter to enter or exit (stock image)

The Pac-Man cell was created by researchers at the Universities of New York and Chicago by piercing a microscopic hole in a sphere made of a polymer to allow matter to enter or exit (stock image)

In another experiment, they showed that the cell mimics can ingest E.coli bacteria and trap them in the membrane, potentially offering a new method of fighting bacteria in the body.

Another future application for the cell mimics could be drug delivery, as they can release a pre-charged substance when activated.

The researchers continue to develop and study cell mimics, including building specimens that perform different tasks and learning how different types communicate with each other.

Pac-Man video games were launched in 1980.

They were originally called Puck Man, but creators Namco decided to change their name to prevent vandals from changing the name to create an obscenity.

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