It won’t be long before we send fleets of small nanobots to our bodies to deliver drugs and solve some of the annoying problems that could otherwise cause irreparable damage and even death. But those robots may not have any metal components if some researchers have their way. Instead, these fleets of robots that can travel through our bodies can be made of something completely unexpected: frog cells.
They are called xenobots – after the African claw frog Xenopus laevis – these little creatures are made from stem cells by man and machine. And once in the human body, they can unclog arteries and prevent the impending heart attack that the doctor has warned you about.
It may be years of research before that happens, but the universities of Vermont and Tufts have been able to generate these ‘entirely new life forms’. The xenobots are made from frog stem cells and are less than a millimeter (0.04 inch) wide, and travel in blood vessels. They can walk and swim, CNN reports, and they can work alone and in groups.
Image source: Github
The stem cells were cut and transformed into specific body shapes to help with a particular task, with a computer that helps people play god. These supercomputers made creatures unseen in nature, the University of Vermont said. The bio-robots have a skin and a heart muscle with which they can move. They can heal themselves if necessary, and they can feed on certain nutrients and survive in the host as long as a specific food source is available.
“These are new living machines,” said computer scientist and robotics expert Joshua Bongard of the University of Vermont. “They are neither a traditional robot nor a well-known animal species. It is a new class of artifacts: a living, programmable organism.”
(Embed) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aQRBCCjaYGE (/ embed)
These xenobots can be used in various areas, not just in medicine. They can be used to access and clean up radioactive areas and collect microplastics in oceans. And when the preloaded fat and protein feed runs out, they destroy themselves without leaving waste. Or at least not the kind that you would associate with nanorobots made from non-biological material.
The theoretical medical use is of course more exciting. Aside from unclogging coronary arteries, the robots can be used to explore other conditions. “If we could make a 3D biological shape on request, we could repair birth defects, reprogram tumors in normal tissue, regenerate after traumatic injury or defeat degenerative disease and aging,” the researcher said in a FAQ.
Image source: Github
The research was funded in part by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, but that does not mean that these xenobots can be armed using AI. At least, according to the researchers, it would not be an easy task. “At the moment, however, it’s hard to see how an AI can make harmful organisms easier than a talented biologist with bad intentions,” they wrote in the same FAQ. “Nevertheless, we believe that as this technology grows, regulation of its use and misuse must have a high priority. But again, the possibility of abuse is much, much smaller than what is done with self-reproducing agents such as bacteria, viruses and gene drives. “
. (TagsToTranslate) drug