Humans have always dreamed of possessing super powers like stealth, flying, or having a pair of laser-emitting eyes that look like superheroes. These super powers only exist in Hollywood comics or movies, however, recent advances in biotechnology are gradually turning human dreams into reality.
Most recently, a research team at the University of California Irvine (UCI), USA, successfully transformed human cells, enabling them to ‘camouflage’ like some marine species. This is an experiment to develop human cell and tissue systems with controllable properties for transmitting, reflecting and absorbing light.
The research, published in the journal Nature Communications on June 2, is believed to open the door for people to possess the ability to ‘stealth’.
According to research in Nature Communications, marine species such as octopus, squid and other molluscs possess a very special ‘active camouflage’ mechanism. Their skin contains white blood cells, including protein molecules called Reflins, which can scatter light and create iridescent camouflage. As a result, the above creatures can change color or change to a transparent form, making it easy for them to blend into their surroundings to hide or hunt.
To study further, the researchers focused on analyzing a species of squid, scientifically named Doryteuthis opalescens. This squid has a special ability to camouflage thanks to specialized reflex cells called leucophore cells containing the Reflins protein, which helps them become invisible by reflecting the colors of their surroundings.
A team at the University of California Irvine used genetic engineering to implant the Reflins protein into human kidney cells. These cells are then cultured and examined under a microscope.
Results showed that human cells have been shown to scatter light like ink. The Reflins proteins in transplanted cells have changed the way cells scatter light, something that kidney cells without Reflin cannot do.
“We were surprised to see that the cells not only metabolize the Reflins protein, but also assemble these proteins in spherical nanostructures and distribute them throughout the cell.“He also emphasized that the mechanism of human cells works almost the same way that squid and octopus often disguise themselves,” said Gorodetsky.
The team also tested whether the cells could activate this disguise themselves by placing the cells in two glass panels coated with salt but at different concentrations. Test results show that cells exposed to sodium chloride scatter more light and are more prominent than their surroundings.
However, according to the scientists, this groundbreaking research result is limited to medical and biological microscopy techniques. In order to fulfill the desire to possess stealth powers, humans will surely have to wait a very long time.
Refer to Live Science