‘Zombie’ cells are created in lab… and they outperform their living counterparts
- Scientists ’embalm’ the living cell in a silica acid solution
- Fossilised cell can survive greater temperatures and pressures than flesh
- Researchers from Sandia National Laboratories and University of New Mexico hope technique can used in commercial manufacturing
By Becky Evans
PUBLISHED: 20:47 EST, 21 February 2013 | UPDATED: 22:45 EST, 21 February 2013
Scientists say by coating organic cells in silicic acid they are able to withstand far greater temperatures and pressures than flesh.
The technique means scientists can preserve valuable biological material by ‘converting it into a fossil.’
The process was developed by researchers from Sandia National Laboratories in Albuquerque and the University of New Mexico.
Scientists used silicic acid to ’embalm’ the mammalian cells and create a near-perfect replica of its structure.
They believe the zombie cells could be used in commercial manufacturing, including fuel cells or sensor technology and may be the future of nanotechnology.
‘It’s very challenging for researchers to build structures at a nanometer scale. We can make particles and wires, but 3-D arbitrary structures haven’t been achieved yet,’ lead researcher Bryan Kaehr was quoted as saying in The Huffington Post.
He added: ‘With this technique, we don’t need to build those structures – nature does it for us.’
Silica has been known for its hard properties since ancient times and is found in sand and quartz.
The living cells are painted with the acid in a petri dish and the silica solution then forms a replica down to the most minute detail.
By being able to survive extreme pressures and temperatures, the zombie cells can ‘perform some functions better than when they were alive’, says Michael Hess at the American Office of Public Affairs.
He said by heating the silica to 400C, the organic part of the cell is evaporated and the solution is kept as a ‘three-dimensional Madame Tussauds wax replica of a formerly living being.’
Mr Kaehr said the process means the cells can carry on ‘working’ even after they are dead.
He said: ‘King Tut was mummified to approximately resemble his living self, but the process took place without mineralisation [a process of fossilisation].
‘Our zombie cells bridge chemistry and biology to create forms that not only near-perfectly resemble their past selves, but can do future work.’