World’s first living robots have reproduced unlike any animal or plant

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Scientists created the world's first living robots, , and now they can reproduce.CNN reports that the team of scientists who created the world's first living robots say the new life forms now have the ability to reproduce. .The creatures are formed from the stem cells of the African clawed frog (xenopus laevis), which is why they are referred to as xenobots. .The creatures are formed from the stem cells of the African clawed frog (xenopus laevis), which is why they are referred to as xenobots. .In 2020, the xenobots were first unveiled after experiments showed they could move, cooperate and self-heal. .Now, scientists say they have discovered a new form of biological reproduction unlike any other animal or plant known to science. .The project involves teams from the University of Vermont, Tufts University and Harvard's Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering.Frogs have a way of reproducing that they normally use but when you ... liberate (the cells) from the rest of the embryo and you give them a chance to figure out how to be in a new environment, not only do they figure out a new way to move, but they also figure out apparently a new way to reproduce. , Michael Levin, a professor of biology and director of the Allen Discovery Center at Tufts University, via CNN.Josh Bongard, the lead author of the study,said that the process is called "kinetic replication.".Bongard told CNN this process normally occurs at a molecular level but has never been recorded at the scale of whole cells or organisms. .The xenobots are able to gather stem cells in a petri dish and transform them into new xenobots after a few days. .According to CNN, despite the breakthrough, the xenobots are still an emerging technology and don't yet have a practical application.

These living machines, called xenobots, are programmable organisms

“If there’s one thing the history of evolution has taught us, it’s that life will not be contained. … Life will find a way.” Those familiar with the “Jurassic Park” movies recognize that as a quote from by Ian Malcolm, played by Jeff Goldblum.

Over billions of years, organisms have evolved many ways of replicating, from budding plants to sexual animals to invading viruses. Now, it seems, the world’s first living robots have found a completely new way to create “babies.”

Last year, a team of scientists at the University of Vermont scraped stem cells from frog embryos and assembled them into a new life form — millimeter-wide xenobots.

“These are novel living machines,” Joshua Bongard, the computer scientist and robotics expert at the University of Vermont who co-led the research, said last year. “They’re neither a traditional robot nor a known species of animal. It’s a new class of artifact: a living, programmable organism.”

Now, that team has discovered these computer-designed and hand-assembled organisms “can swim out into their tiny dish, find single cells, gather hundreds of them together, and assemble ‘baby’ Xenobots inside their Pac-Man-shaped ‘mouth’ — that, a few days later, become new Xenobots that look and move just like themselves,” the university announced Monday.

The new xenobots will then go out, find cells and make copies of themselves.

“With the right design — they will spontaneously self-replicate,” Bongard said Monday.

In frogs, these embryonic cells “would be sitting on the outside of a tadpole, keeping out pathogens and redistributing mucus,” said Michael Levin, a professor of biology and director of the Allen Discovery Center at Tufts University and co-leader of the new research. “But we’re putting them into a novel context. We’re giving them a chance to reimagine their multicellularity.”

Sam Kriegman added: “These are frog cells replicating in a way that is very different from how frogs do it. No animal or plant known to science replicates in this way.” Kriegman is the lead author on the new study and completed his PhD in Bongard’s lab at UVM. He is now a post-doctoral researcher at Tuft’s Allen Center and Harvard University’s Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering.

The UVM team acknowledges some people might be concerned about self-replicating biotechnology. But Bongard said they have a deeper goal: understanding.

“We are working to understand this property: replication. The world and technologies are rapidly changing. It’s important, for society as a whole, that we study and understand how this works,” he said.

These millimeter-size living machines, entirely contained in a laboratory and vetted by federal, state and institutional ethics experts, “are not what keep me awake at night. What presents risk is the next pandemic; accelerating ecosystem damage from pollution; intensifying threats from climate change,” he added. “This is an ideal system in which to study self-replicating systems. We have a moral imperative to understand the conditions under which we can control it, direct it, douse it, exaggerate it.”

The results of the new research were published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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