Now a team of scientists has repurposed living cells -- scraped from frog embryos -- and assembled them into entirely new life-forms. These millimeter-wide "xenobots" can move toward a target, perhaps pick up a payload (like a medicine that needs to be carried to a specific place inside a patient) -- and heal themselves after being cut.
"These are novel living machines," says 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."
Creatures - Supercomputer - UVM - Biologists - Tufts
The new creatures were designed on a supercomputer at UVM -- and then assembled and tested by biologists at Tufts University. "We can imagine many useful applications of these living robots that other machines can't do," says co-leader Michael Levin who directs the Center for Regenerative and Developmental Biology at Tufts, "like searching out nasty compounds or radioactive contamination, gathering microplastic in the oceans, traveling in arteries to scrape out plaque."
The results of the new research were published January 13 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
People - Organisms - Benefit - Dawn - Agriculture
People have been manipulating organisms for human benefit since at least the dawn of agriculture, genetic editing is becoming widespread, and a few artificial organisms have been manually assembled in the past few years -- copying the body forms of known animals.
But this research, for the first time ever, "designs completely biological machines from the ground up," the team writes in their new study.
Months - Processing - Time - Deep - Green
With months of processing time on the Deep Green supercomputer cluster at UVM's Vermont Advanced Computing Core, the team -- including lead author and doctoral student Sam Kriegman -- used an evolutionary algorithm to create thousands of candidate designs for the new life-forms. Attempting to achieve a task assigned...
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