The US Department of Energy reports that researchers at Sandia Labs working with the University of New Mexico have created new “zombie” cells that are more resilient, and outperform, living mammalian cells.
What could possibly go wrong.
Basically, they’re taking cells and soaking them in silica, which permeates the entire cell and hardens everything in it, as if it’s a mold. They then heat it, burn off the organic part of the cell, its protein, so that you’re left with the silica mold of the cell. The thing is, the silica mold actually can still do a lot of things the cell would normally do.
So it actually goes from being a Cylon/Borg zombie cell to more of a body-snatcher zombie cell.
SciGuru notes that “for reasons still partially obscure, enters without clogging and in effect embalms every organelle in the cell from the micro- to the nanometer scale.” Yes, it’s Always good news when working with zombies for the researchers to not fully understand why the process works.
The researchers also note that they can expose the new and improved cells to super high temperatures and pressures, and they still work, indefinitely. “Once we’ve used silica to stabilize the cellular structure, it can still carry out reactions and, more importantly, that reaction is stable enough to work at high temperatures. The method is also a means to take a soft, potentially valuable biological material and convert it to a fossil that will stay on our shelves indefinitely.”
So what they’re saying is, it’s going to be harder to kill the zombies with fire. And without outside intervention, the zombies can live forever.
The DOE writer, Michael Hess, quotes Bryan Kaehr, a scientist at Sandia, explaining the difference between mummies and zombies. “King Tut was mummified,” Kehr told Hess. “to approximately resemble his living self, but the process took place without mineralization [a process of fossilization]. Our zombie cells bridge chemistry and biology to create forms that not only near-perfectly resemble their past selves, but can do future work.”
Be sure to thank Mr. Kaehr when the last surviving guy at the CDC sets off the auto-destruct.