The Xenobot: An Incredible Living Machine

Category Engineering

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Xenobot is a living machine created by some US researchers, comprised of skin and heart cells. It is made from the stem cells of an African frog and is the first living programmable robot built with the active contribution of artificial intelligence and biology. The Xenobot is 1mm long or less and can perform certain functions, and its creation involves using a supercomputer programmed with an evolutionary algorithm and microsurgery tools to join thousands of cells together one after the other.

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Ever imagined a world where we could utilize the power of a living cell to carry out certain functions? Just like we have robots that help in several aspects of our lives, some scientists in US universities have come up with a living robot known as the xenobot.

The xenobot had been predicted to be a valuable tool in medicine and other fields. In years to come, it wouldn't only help treat cancer, but it would help keep the aquatic bodies clean.

Xenobots comprise of both skin and heart cells

But despite this, there had been several controversies on whether the xenobot should be part of our future or not. This article contains everything you would want to know about this living machine.

--- What is a Xenobot? --- .

Xenobot is a robot-like being that is created from living cells. Unlike the synthetic machine robots that we used to know, the xenobot is made through some biotechnology procedures and with organic cells.

The stem cells used to create the Xenobot are taken from an African frog, Xenopus laevis

It is therefore known to be the first living programmable robot built with the active contribution of artificial intelligence and biology. The xenobot is neither our usual traditional robot nor a plant or animal, but it is a tiny microorganism that can be programmed and configured to carry out a certain task or perform a function.

Generally, the xenobot is known to be 1mm long or less, and it is made from the stem cells of an African frog (Xenopus laevis) which forms the basis from which its name is derived. The xenobot moves in a linear and circular direction, and it could clump together to move in the same pattern or direction.

Xenobots can join together to travel in the same direction

--- How is the Xenobot created? --- .

After several years of development in Robotics, Biotechnology, and synthetic biology, scientists were concerned about how they could develop living cells that could perform a certain task. This then led some researchers at Tuft University and the University of Vermont to investigate what we now call the xenobot.

In doing this, they collected some stem cells from the embryo of a clawed African frog. The cells were then differentiated into skin cells and heart cells. The skin cells were to provide structure to the bio-robot while the heart cells relax and contract to aid movement. The whole idea of this research was to manipulate and create living cells capable of carrying out aspecific function and having a locomotive ability.

Creating a Xenobot requires the use of a supercomputer and microsurgery tools

To create the xenobot, a supercomputer was programmed with an evolutionary algorithm with the aim that it'll produce different designs of cell configuration.

Next, the researchers needed to test these designs to check which of them will suit the purpose for which they were created. And so, the supercomputer was used to detect the cell designs that are capable of moving toward an object and those that were not. With this, the researchers were able to find out virtual designs that could move and perform some functions.

Xenobots are 1mm long or less

But that wasn't all, the researcher had to replicate the virtual procedure manually. And so skin cells and heart cells of frogs were obtained and were joined together using microsurgery tools and following the designs that were successful virtually. With the use of tiny forceps and electrodes, researchers joined thousands of cells together one after the other under the microscope.

Although it wasn't a simple process, the fact that cells have an inherent capability of sticking together maakes the process relatively easy.

Research is still ongoing to discover more potential uses for Xenobots

At the point the cells join together, the researchers identified the created xenobot to move in a linear and circular direction.

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