What could possibly go wrong?
In response to any ethical concerns the public might have, the team stress Xenobots are entirely contained in a lab, are easily extinguished, and are vetted by federal, state and institutional ethics experts.
Via: Daily Mail:
In a potential breakthrough for regenerative medicine, scientists have created the first-ever living robots that can reproduce.
The millimetre-sized living machines, called Xenobots 3.0, are neither traditional robots nor a species of animal, but living, programmable organisms.
Made from frog cells, the computer-designed organisms, created by a US team, gather single cells inside a Pac-Man-shaped ‘mouth’ and release ‘babies’ that look and move like their parents.
Self-replicating living bio-robots could enable more direct, personalised drug treatment for traumatic injury, birth defects, cancer, ageing and more.
On its own, the Xenobot parent, made of some 3,000 cells, forms a sphere – but it can’t reproduce effectively over several generations.
‘These can make children but then the system normally dies out after that,’ said Sam Kriegman at Tuft’s. ‘It’s very hard, actually, to get the system to keep reproducing.’
So, the team used a computer – specifically an artificial intelligence (AI) algorithm on the Deep Green supercomputer cluster at UVM.
The algorithm was able to test billions of body shapes in simulation – triangles, squares, pyramids, starfish – to find ones that replicate.
‘We asked the supercomputer at UVM to figure out how to adjust the shape of the initial parents, and the AI came up with some strange designs after months of chugging away, including one that resembled Pac-Man,’ said Kriegman.
‘It’s very non-intuitive. It looks very simple, but it’s not something a human engineer would come up with. Why one tiny mouth? Why not five? We sent the results to Doug and he built these Pac-Man-shaped parent Xenobots.
‘Then those parents built children, who built grandchildren, who built great-grandchildren, who built great-great-grandchildren.’
In other words, the Pac-Man design greatly extended the number of generations.