Scientists have created the world's first living, self-healing robots using stem cells from African clawed frog (Xenopus laevis), hence the name xenobots.
This new kind of life form-half living cells and half machine- are sitting in a petri dish in the laboratories of Tufts University and the University of Vermont. A technological breakthrough, this living organism is fully programmable, that can change forms and function primarily on command.
Entirely New Life Forms
Xenobots are less than a millimetre wide, specifically just 0.04 inches, just small enough to travel inside human bodies. The University of Vermont, which conducted the study with Tufts University's Allen Discovery Center describes this as an "entirely new life-forms."
This type of robot was first introduced earlier this year, and thanks to the report from the New York Times, we now have a look on the process of creating the new creatures that bridge the divide between the mechanical and biological science.
They do not have sex organs, or stomachs, or brains, or nervous systems. It just consisted of about 2,000 living skin cells from a frog embryo. They only live for about a week and are biologically simpler than other organisms. Xenobots also can heal itself even after being torn almost in half.
They can be designed to have legs that will help them navigate in more challenging terrain or swim. It is all calculated by roboticists in computer simulations, using physics engines that are used like those in Fortnite and Minecraft video games.
It makes xenobots amazing and yet slightly unsettling. The existence of xenobots could spill from artificial-intelligence and fundamental questions in biology and ethics.
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Not your Typical Robot
Xenobots, unlike the usual robots, have no shiny gears or robotic arms. They look like a tiny blob of moving pink flesh that can do things that typical robots of steel and plastic cannot.
Traditional robots produce harmful ecological and health side effects as they degrade over time, according to the researchers in the study. But with xenobots, they are more environmentally friendly and safer for human health-the research published on Monday is in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science.
Its Potential Use
The study which was funded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency which is a federal agency that oversees the development of technology for military use explained that the xenobots could be potentially used in a host of tasks.
Xenobots can survive in aqueous environments without additional nutrients for days or weeks, which makes them suitable for internal drug delivery. They can be used to carry medicine inside human bodies, or even scrape plaques in our arteries.
Aside from that, xenobots can also be of help to our environment. They could be used to clean up radioactive wastes and collect microplastics that harm our oceans.
In the researchers' website, they also identify regenerative medicine as one of the xenobots' use. Talking about the possibility of repairing congenital disabilities, reprogramming tumors into healthy tissues, and regenerate injury or degenerative disease and defeating the process of aging.
This sounds like a dystopian sci-fi film, but the scientists assure us that there is no need for alarm. Researchers say that it is unlikely that the AI -that plays a significant role in building these robots- could have evil intentions.