Researchers develop synthetic organisms capable of reproducing
image: University of Vermont

Researchers develop synthetic organisms capable of reproducing

Researchers have created synthetic organisms that are capable of self-replicating. Dubbed “Xenobots,” these tiny millimeter-wide biological machines can now reproduce as well – a huge leap in synthetic biology.

The study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, explains how a team from the University of Vermont, Tufts University, and Harvard University made use of Xenopus Laevis frog embryonic cells to create the Xenobots.

Their original work began in 2020 when the Xenobots were first “built.” The team created an algorithm that brought together countless cells together to construct several biological machines, eventually settling on embryonic skin cells from frogs.

The beginning of robotic uprising?

The machine bodies were assembled with the help of biological cellular material and artificial electrodes. When they were activated, the cells started working together. The skin cells started forming into “bodies” that are capable of performing specific tasks, such as pushing microscopic objects around or moving in formation.

“With the right design — they will spontaneously self-replicate,” research co-leader Joshua Bongard said in a press statement

It’s natural to believe these tiny Xenobots will one day be responsible for a robotic uprising, but the biological machines aren’t harmful. Unlike existing technology, Xenobots can be turned off, and in around seven days, biodegrade as any skin cell would.

Faster and more efficient algorithms

Besides, the team isn’t planning to release Xenobots into the world to be robotic helpers. Rather, the idea is to study how their creation would result in faster and more efficient algorithms that can manipulate already living cells. It remains to be seen what lies in the future for this discovery of synthetic organisms.

“If we knew how to tell collections of cells to do what we wanted them to do, ultimately, that’s regenerative medicine — that’s the solution to traumatic injury, birth defects, cancer, and aging,” said Tuft’s Michael Levin, a co-author on the study. “All of these different problems are here because we don’t know how to predict and control what groups of cells are going to build. Xenobots are a new platform for teaching us.”

Disclaimer: The above article has been aggregated by a computer program and summarised by an Steamdaily specialist. You can read the original article at uvm
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