A team of scientists from the United States has designed a new form of artificial biological reproduction by creating self-replicating “living robots.” It is a new development in the so-called ‘xenobots’, whose invention was communicated by this same team of researchers in january 2020.
Scientists design small “living robots” from frog cells
Now, the experts in biorobotics have achieved the self-replication of these organisms designed by computer and manufactured from embryonic frog cells, of the species ‘Xenopus laevis’ (African clawed frog).
The advance has been published this Monday by the magazine ‘Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences‘(PNAS), in an article titled Kinematic self-replication in reconfigurable organisms.
The new organisms assemble the cells they collect with their mouths and release xenobot ‘babies’ that look and move like themselves.
Xenobots are neither a traditional robot nor a known animal species. They are a new artifact class: “living and programmable organisms”, according to their creators. These new creatures were designed by a supercomputer from the University of Vermont and its parts were assembled with the support of Tufts and Harvard Universities.
In this new generation of xenobots –the third–, individuals present an opening or mouth that, according to their creators, gives them a certain resemblance to Pac-Man or Pac-Man, the character from the video games of the eighties.
With that mouth, the xenobots collect individual cells in a fluid medium. They then assemble those cells and release xenobot ‘babies’ that look and move like themselves. Then the hatchlings do the same thing, over and over again.
Useful to fight pollution
Scientists believe that xenobots can be useful to search for radioactive contamination, as well as to collect plastic waste from the oceans or even to remove arterial blockages inside humans.
The fact that they are also capable of self-replication opens up new perspectives, according to the researchers, in applications for organ and tissue regenerative medicine.
In addition to self-replicating, xenobots can move to a target and repair themselves after being cut. “They are new living machines,” Joshua Bongard, one of the robotics experts at the University of Vermont, said in January 2020.