These Tiny Living Robots Made From Frog Cells Can Swim And Heal Itself
Dhir Acharya - Jan 15, 2020
The robots can swim forward in one direction, and when torn in half, they can stitch back up on their own.
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Soon, your body may have tiny robots swim inside, that’s if these prototypes reach their full potential.
Researchers from Tufts University and the University of Vermont, using a supercomputer, designed a new life form from the frog’s heart and skin cells. When they have got a robot design that could accomplish a goal such as moving forward in a direction, the research team collected stem cells from frog embryos, then they incubated mature cells from the embryos, cut then joined them to form a biological model like what the computer drew up.
The result was clumps of cells featuring a cluster of pumping cardiac cells on one end to propel the clump of cells through the water. Joshua Bongard, a robotics expert at the University of Vermont, co-leader of the research, said:
Since the robots move quite slowly, the research team had to flip them over on the back to verify that they were functioning as supposed to. That stopped the robots from moving forward.
The researchers made several robots and watched them successfully pushing other objects around. They also tried creating a pouch in the new life form, which let them carry a payload around.
Michael Levin, co-leader of the research, said:
Douglas Blackiston, a microsurgeon at Tufts University, helped make xenobots using tiny electrodes and forceps.
Living robots provide us with certain benefits, they can heal themselves and are biodegradable. According to Bongard, when the robots were sliced almost in half, they stitched themselves back up.
However, living robots can also raise concerns about having intruders inside the human body without consent, which Levin says is not an unreasonable fear. However, he considers the study a step forward to understanding the complex system inside the human body.