Scientists have created the world's first living, self-healing robots using stem cells from frogs. Named xenobots after the African clawed frog (Xenopus laevis) from which they take their stem cells, the machines are less than a millimeter (0.04 inches) wide -- small enough to travel inside human bodies. They can walk and swim, survive for weeks without food, and work together in groups. These are "entirely new life-forms," said the University of Vermont, which conducted the research with Tufts University's Allen Discovery Center. Stem cells are unspecialized cells that have the ability to develop into different cell types.
Meet the xenobots: Tiny living robots have been created using cells taken from frog embryos. Each so-called xenobot is less than a millimeter across, but one can propel itself through water using two stumpy limbs, while another has a kind of pouch that it could use to carry a small load. The early research, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, could help the development of useful soft robots that can heal themselves when damaged. Because they are made of living tissue, they also decay once they stop working. The researchers, from Tufts University, the University of Vermont, and the Wyss Institute at Harvard, hope such living robots could one day be used to clean up microplastics, digest toxic materials, or even deliver drugs inside our bodies (although this is obviously still all a long way off).
The report also identified several sectors that could benefit from increased AI adoption and development, including precision agriculture, public safety and public health. To avoid infringing on civil liberties and reductions in employment as the technology develops, however, the task force would need to be made permanent, the report says. Task force member Eugene Santos Jr., a Dartmouth College engineering professor, said the idea is to create an independent agency that government officials and the public could go to with ideas, questions and concerns about the technology.
"These are novel living machines," said Joshua Bongard, one of the lead researchers at the University of Vermont, in the news release. "They're neither a traditional robot nor a known species of animal. Xenobots don't look like traditional robots -- they have no shiny gears or robotic arms. Instead, they look more like a tiny blob of moving pink flesh. The researchers say this is deliberate -- this "biological machine" can achieve things typical robots of steel and plastic cannot.
Robots are made to mimic living creatures, and as smart as they're becoming, we can still look at them and understand that they aren't "living" in any real sense. But that line is now beginning to blur. Researchers at the University of Vermont and the Allen Discovery Center at Tufts University have essentially created new creatures from frog cells, complete with programmable behaviors. The new living robots are made of skin and heart cells taken from frog embryos, assembled into stable forms designed by a supercomputer and set loose in a Petri dish. The skin cells work to give the little critters their shape – which kind of resembles a blob with four "legs" – while the heart cells push them around with every pump.
Scientists at the University of Vermont and Tufts University used a supercomputer to evolve a design for tiny living robots made out of frog cells, then assembled them. The tiny new creatures did what they were supposed to do --make their way across a Petri dish. They also had some surprises for the researchers. "These are novel living machines," Joshua Bongard, a computer scientist and robotics expert at the University of Vermont who co-led the new research, said in a statement. "They're neither a traditional robot nor a known species of animal. The research results were published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The first author was UVM doctoral student Sam Kriegman. The new "biobots" were designed on the Deep Green supercomputer cluster at UVM's Vermont Advanced Computing Core. Bongard said that in 100 runs, the supercomputer considered billions of designs, looking for a design for a creature that would travel across the bottom of a Petri dish as quickly as possible. "The design we built wasn't imagined by a human.
Now a team of scientists has repurposed living cells -- scraped from frog embryos -- and assembled them into entirely new life-forms. These millimeter-wide "xenobots" can move toward a target, perhaps pick up a payload (like a medicine that needs to be carried to a specific place inside a patient) -- and heal themselves after being cut. "These are novel living machines," says Joshua Bongard, a computer scientist and robotics expert at the University of Vermont who co-led the new research. "They're neither a traditional robot nor a known species of animal. The new creatures were designed on a supercomputer at UVM -- and then assembled and tested by biologists at Tufts University. "We can imagine many useful applications of these living robots that other machines can't do," says co-leader Michael Levin who directs the Center for Regenerative and Developmental Biology at Tufts, "like searching out nasty compounds or radioactive contamination, gathering microplastic in the oceans, ...
Tiny'Living robots' named Xenobots have been created from frog embryos and they could be used to destroy cancer cells or remove microplastics from the oceans. They were developed by researchers from Vermont University and Tufts University who adapted stem cells taken from the embryo of the African frog Xenopus Laevis. The bots are just a 25th of an inch wide (1mm) and can be programmed to perform a range of tasks including delivering medicine directly to a point in the body. Researchers say the new'artificial cells' can be shaped in any way necessary for the task at hand and are'indestructible' and able to self repair. 'They're neither a traditional robot nor a known species of animal.
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IMAGE: Robert Gramling is the Holly and Bob Miller Chair in Palliative Medicine at the University of Vermont Larner College of Medicine. In a new paper, Gramling and his colleagues show... view more Some of the most important, and difficult, conversations in healthcare are the ones that happen amid serious and life-threatening illnesses. Discussions of the treatment options and prognoses in these settings are a delicate balance for doctors and nurses who are dealing with people at their most vulnerable point and may not fully understand what the future holds. Now researchers at the University of Vermont's Vermont Conversation Lab have used machine learning and natural language processing to better understand what those conversations look like, which could eventually help healthcare providers improve their end-of-life communication. "We want to understand this complex thing called a conversation," says Robert Gramling, director of the lab in UVM's Larner College of Medicine who led the study, published December 9 in the journal Patient Education and Counselling.