Scientists create living machine-animal hybrid


Scientists create living machine-animal hybrid

Constructed by the biological material taken from Xenopus laevis frog, these machines are dubbed as “Xenobots”. No one has ever invented such creation before. Machine-animal hybrid is a new life form on earth.

The researchers who created these biological machines are determined to program them using computers, to swim through the oceans removing toxic microplasts or to travel through the human body to transport medication in to internal organs where they are needed. Although they are machines they are capable of regenerating and self repairing, because they are alive. They are able to replicate themselves when needed.

“These are novel living machines,” said Dr Joshua Bongard, a computer scientist and robotics expert at the University of Vermont, who co-led the new research.

“They’re neither a traditional robot nor a known species of animal. It’s a new class of artifact: a living, programmable organism.”

The scientists first used the Green supercomputer cluster at the University of Vermont to create algorithms to assemble some virtual skin and heart cells to perform certain tasks. Afterwards based on those blue prints a team of biologists from Tufts University, Massachusetts assembled the real cells (taken from the frogs) to create the bots.

They gathered stem cells extracted from the embryos of African frogs. This was done by observing through a microscope by using tiny equipment and tools. The formations of the cells are totally new to this world. They have never been observed before in nature.

Xenopus laevis frog

The skin cells formed the body and the heart muscle cells were repurposed to move the cells forward through its contractions. So the robots can move on their own.  

The cells were able to move in water environments for days using energy from their embryonic energy stores.

“We can imagine many useful applications of these living robots that other machines can’t do like searching out nasty compounds or radioactive contamination, gathering microplastic in the oceans, traveling in arteries to scrape out plaque,” said co-leader Dr Michael Levin who directs the Center for Regenerative and Developmental Biology at Tufts.

“You look at the cells we’ve been building our xenobots with, and, genomically, they’re frogs. It’s 100 per cent frog DNA–but these are not frogs. Then you ask, well, what else are these cells capable of building?”

“We’ve shown, these frog cells can be coaxed to make interesting living forms that are completely different from what their default anatomy would be.”

The researchers also highlighted that unlike the regular machines that needs constant maintenance, these living bots looks after themselves. Once their life is over they fall apart without any harm to the environment.

Apparently the researchers tested the robots by slicing them nearly half , but the robots stitched themselves back and kept going on. That’s something not possible with typical machines.

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