Meet xenobots, the first “live robots” in the world | India News

Researchers in the United States have built the first “living robot,” or xenobot, by engineering frog embryo pieces to behave like “live and programmable organisms,” an advance that can lead to “life forms.” designed by a computer capable of administering drugs in the human body, cleaning radioactive waste, collecting microplastics in the oceans or even scraping plaque from human arteries.
These millimeter wide bots were designed by joining two different cell types of a frog embryo specifically so that they could move towards a goal on their own and carry out tasks, the study said, published in the PNAS magazine.
“These are novel living machines. They are not a traditional robot or a known animal species. It’s a new class of artifacts: a living and programmable organism, ”said study co-author Joshua Bongard, a computer scientist and robotics expert at the University of Vermont in the United States.
The robots were also designed to pick up a payload, such as a medication that must be taken to a specific place within a patient, and could be cured after being cut, according to the researchers.
To create the xenobots, scientists developed a complex algorithm that could learn for itself and evolve to create thousands of candidate designs for new life forms. The algorithm reassembled a few hundred simulated cells in innumerable body shapes and forms, again and again, in an attempt to accomplish a task assigned by scientists, such as locomotion in one direction.
This “use” of living cells, which seems to be taken from a dystopian science fiction film, has raised several ethical issues. Some experts warned about the potential danger of these robots if they get out of control. Others pointed out that scientists were getting uncomfortably close to being gods.
The newspaper said that bots can lead to novel machines in a wide range of fields, such as the detection of toxic contamination in the environment, the accumulation of microplastics in the oceans and also the removal of blocks in the blood vessels. Unlike traditional robots, researchers said that xenobots could theoretically accomplish these feats without polluting the planet.
The bots are named after the species of African frogs, Xenopus laevis, whose embryonic cells, or stem cells, that the research team gathered for the project.
The bots followed basic rules about the physics of what frog skins and heart cells can do. The researchers said that the computer, after 100 independent executions of the algorithm, selected the most promising designs for testing. Then they transferred the computer designs to life.
The scientists separated them into individual cells and allowed them to incubate. Then, these cells were individually cut with small tweezers and an even smaller electrode, and joined under a microscope at a close approximation of the designs specified by the computer, the researchers said.
The bound cells, joined in bodily forms never seen in nature and began to work in unison, they added. According to the scientists, skin cells formed a more passive architecture, while random contractions of heart muscle cells created an orderly forward movement that was guided by computer design and spontaneous self-organization patterns.
These responses from the different cells allowed the xenobots to move alone, according to the study. According to the researchers, the robots were able to move consistently and explore their aqueous environment for days or weeks.
They also discovered that groups of xenobots can move in circles, pushing the granules towards a central location, spontaneously and collectively. Some of the bots were built with a hole through the center to reduce air resistance or drag.
Scientists could also create simulated versions in which this hole was reused as a bag to successfully transport an object.
“It is a step towards the use of computer-designed organisms for intelligent drug delivery,” Bongard said.
The xenobots also crumble harmlessly, said the scientist at the University of Vermont. “The xenobots are completely biodegradable. When they finish their work after seven days, they are just dead skin cells, “he said.

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