Scientists have created first ‘living robots’ in a lab made of real cells

Credit: Doug Blackiston/Tufts University

Scientists have created first ‘living robots’ in a lab made of real cells

For a long time, we’ve always thought of robots as those blocky things from old-school sci-fi movies. We all know that’s not quite the case, but the general consensus is that these electronic buggers are mostly metal – or some other kind of synthetic material. Until now. Yeah, nah, scientists have just created robots out of living cells. Check it out…

Right, so first off, we’re not talking about cyborgs here, or terminators. We can only assume that’ll happen in the future, but right now, it’s not the case. Instead, as co-author of a report in the journal PNAS, Joshua Bongard, says, “These are novel living machines. They’re neither a traditional robot nor a known species of animal. It’s a new class of artefact: a living, programmable organism.”

One of the ‘living robots’. Credit: Doug Blackiston/Tufts University

Clearly, that’s safe as houses and no possible apocalypse can result. Especially when you consider the cute name the scientists have dubbed the ‘robots’ with. Deadset, they’ve called them xenobots. How could anything so delightfully named mutate into a world-ending threat?

Right now, these ‘life-forms’ are smaller than a pinhead, but they are already capable of performing specific jobs. Namely, working in pairs to propel themselves through a fluid and carry tiny cargo like tiny medicine. You know, like in the Anatomy Park episode of Rick and Morty or a million other sci-fi franchises.

Credit: Adult Swim

Apparently, the scientists behind this pretty f**ken amazing technology used cells from an African Clawed Frog and created an ‘evolutionary algorythm’ that simulates the process of natural selection. According to IFLScience, “They assigned a task, such as movement in one direction, and then let the computer virtually assemble the simulated cells in different forms, over and over again, until one performed the skill. Inspired by the design crafted by the AI, the team assembled the xenobots using the skin and heart muscle cells of an African clawed frog (Xenopus laevis).”

Bongard’s mate, Michael Levin, the director of the Centre for Regenerative and Developmental Biology at Tufts, said, “You look at the cells we’ve been building our xenobots with, and, genomically, they’re frogs. It’s 100 percent frog DNA – but these are not frogs. Then you ask, well, what else are these cells capable of building?”

A simulated one and a real one made of frog muscle. Credit: Sam Kriegman/UVM

Apparently, in this fluff-piece, the answer is ‘a brighter future’ and not ‘the end of man.’ We’ll see how that pans out.

Final thought: As we always say, technology is pretty f**ken awesome these days. All the s**t we used to see in our science-fiction is actually happening around us and it’s bloody majestic to see it in our lifetimes. We can’t wait to see what comes next, but what do you blokes reckon? Is this a goer or not?

Just in case you missed it, here’s one of Ozzy’s latest commentary videos…Ozzy Man Reviews: Yoga Fails

Video Link: University of Vermont

H/T: IFLScience.