Scientists from the University of Vermont and Tufts University have created the first ever “living robot” from frog cells. To be more precise, the new type of robot was designed by an algorithm on the supercomputer, while scientists have followed the instructions to surgically create a new type of being.

Tiny robots were named “xenobots” after the frog Xenopus laevis that supplied stem cells. Despite the fact that “it’s 100 per cent frog DNA”, this not a frog, shared project co-leader Michael Levin, highlighting that it is an entirely new species:

“These are entirely new life forms. They are living, programmable organisms. They have never before existed on Earth”

A millimetre size xenobots live up to 10 days and die. But in their lifetime they can not only live, or heal themselves, but be programmed for a variety of purposes like cleaning from radioactive or plastic waste, or even cleaning the human’s arteries.

The sustainability of technology is itself a big plus, reads the article “A scalable pipeline for designing reconfigurable organisms”, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Journal on January 7:

“Most technologies are made from steel, concrete, chemicals, and plastics, which degrade over time and can produce harmful ecological and health side effects. It would thus be useful to build technologies using self-renewing and biocompatible materials, of which the ideal candidates are living systems themselves”

The research findings also suggest that the production of this type of robots could be scaled up and automatised in future, accelerating the robotics adoption:

“Although some steps in this pipeline still require manual intervention, complete automation in future would pave the way to designing and deploying unique, bespoke living systems for a wide range of functions” 

But general purpose of the research goes even further, back to understanding the Nature, shared Levis:

“The aim is to understand the software of life. If you think about birth defects, cancer, age-related diseases, all of these things could be solved if we knew how to make biological structures, to have ultimate control over growth and form”


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