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The First-Ever BioRobots

Scientists from the University of Vermont announced the creation of the world’s first living, self-healing bio-robots, xenobots. Scientists themselves called their creation “a completely new form of life.”

As reported by CNN, miniature biorobots with a size of about 1 mm are able to move to the target, to the human cardiovascular system, transfer tiny loads, self-recover in case of damage, live up to 10 days and even work in groups. Robots were created from stem cells of African frogs of the Xenopus laevis species – that is why they are called xenobots.

In an article published in the “Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS)”, scientists described how tiny bodies were formed from stem cells taken from Spur frog embryos. The configuration of biorobots was previously developed by a computer, which, on the basis of the “evolutionary algorithm”, randomly grouped 500–1000 heart or skin cells into some form, then tested the behavior of this formation in a virtual environment, selected the best and derived a new generation from them.

As a result, 100 generations were tested and only a few of the most successful configurations for the formation of xenobots were selected. The cells formed stable structures that have never been found in nature yet – while xenobots are genetically 100% frogs.

Depending on which cells the robots were formed from, they acted differently. Xenobots from heart cells turned out to be the most active; such cells spontaneously shrink and loosen, helping the robot move. The shape of some xenobots allows putting a tiny load into them which they can move. Some biorobots are able to push the load in front of them. Moreover, if their shape is damaged, they quickly restore it.

Studies have shown that xenobots are able to move and act from seven to ten days using the energy available in the cells. They are not able to multiply, and after the end of the life cycle, they simply disintegrate and decompose, like all living organisms.

Scientists noted that xenobots are absolutely harmless to the human body. In the future, they can be used for a whole range of different tasks: cleaning radioactive contamination, collecting microplastics in the oceans, “direct” delivery of drugs to the human body, and so on.

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