Researchers have created robots from stem cells of frogs, capable of reproducing by accumulating new stem cells which in turn will give rise to robots. And so on over several generations. A wonderful experience that can tell us about the origins of life.

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[EN VIDÉO] The amazing power of stem cells
Eternal youth seems to be a task as old as humanity. It could be that this fountain of youth lies at the heart of our bodies, within stem cells. The science of discovery takes us to discover these amazing cells in a video.

For several years, researchers have been trying to develop xenobots made up of living cells. In 2020, a team from the University of Vermont and Tufts University successfully created robots Starting from Stem Cells A frog, able to move independently and self-organize to perform various tasks (read below). Today, a new step has been taken with xenobots that can produce new generations of robots and thus reproduce like a living being.

Piles of stem cells that turn into robots

At first, as before, we have xenobots made up of groups of frog stem cells Xenopus laevis (xenopus smooth). Each cluster, about half a millimeter in diameter, contains about 3,000 stem cells. These xenobots are then immersed in a “bath” of 60,000 new stem cells, and there’s a surprise: they begin to form “mounds” of stem cells, large enough that they, in turn, become independent. Reproduction stops when we stop adding new stem cells.

each cycle of repetition However, it produces smaller offspring, so after a while the new robots are no longer viable (less than 50 cells). To solve this problem, researchers turned toartificial intelligence To determine if there is an optimal form of assembly. Using an algorithm, they were able to pre-select the initial configuration that is most likely to give the largest number of generations. Verdict: Pac-Man-shaped robots are the most efficient, with “babies” on average 149% larger than spherical robots. By testing this hypothesis, the researchers actually found that the Pac-Man robots produced four generations of xenobots, as opposed to just two for the globular robots.

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Create bots built for measurement with live ‘kits’

« L ‘partial similarity I use computer hardware and software, explains Michael Levine, co-author of the study published in PNAS. what hereditaryIt is saving material. It tells each cell exactly what components it can contain. The rules that govern the functioning of newly arranged cells are similar to programs The researchers are now planning to build a “library” of modules from which we draw functions to create a “super robot” with all the required properties.

The beginning of life on Earth?

« This is the first time that multicellular organisms self-replicate in a way that does not involve the growth of body cells Michael Levine is excited. However, this biological process can be involved in The emergence of life on Earth. « It has been proven that the componentsARN They can assemble and act like enzymes to help synthesize more RNA. […] Other non-biological chemicals also create copies of themselves in this way. researcher says.

A living robot made of cells

Subject Celine DeLosarch Posted on 01/19/2020

Researchers have created robots from the stem cells of frogs, able to move independently and self-organize to perform various tasks. However, humans’ creation of beings not found in nature raises concerns about misappropriation and ethical issues.

the man cyborg Not for tomorrow yet, but the first living robot created from the stem cells of frogs has just seen the light of day. ” This is neither a traditional nor a new robot Ocean An animal, but a completely new programmable life form Joshua Bongard, Engineer, welcomes you to robotic at the University of Vermont and co-designer of the project. These xenorobots, as the researchers called them, are less than a millimeter long and can move independently, survive weeks without food, and work together.

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This is not the first attempt at Create artificial life. In April 2019, researchers at Cornell University announced that they had built robots in adn endowed a artificial metabolism. Other approaches have attempted to build flexible robots, inspired by animals (snakes, crickets, birdAnd TortoiseAnd eelAnd chenilleAnd PoissonsAnd SurprisedAnd an insectAnd dog). « But for the first time, we’ve built biological machines from the ground up I congratulate the researchers for their study contained in the journal PNAS.

A xenorobot is a reprogrammable organism, designed from stem cells. © University of Vermont

Age from 10 days to several weeks

These xenorobots are not like traditional animal robots or robots. They are like a file fetus informs, cells are organized according to how they are programmed. Stem cells are first taken from A frog embryo African Xenopus laevis (Hence their name). A sophisticated algorithm generates thousands of possible combinations with “passive” cells (skin cells) and “active” cells (heart cells), the latter ensuring the mobility of the biorobot thanks to its contractions. After incubation, the cells are grouped according to the patterns he drawsthe computer. Thus it is possible that Edit properties As per the required task. Researchers have found, for example, that some configurations are more or less fast or that they cause robots to organize themselves to assemble materials or manipulate objects.

Each xenorobot has enough energy to survive on its own for 10 days, but may extend its lifespan for several weeks in an enriched environment. NutrientsResearchers say. Xenorobots are also able to “heal” wounds on their own.

Neuron robots, endowed with cognitive abilities

These xenorobots have something to dream about: they can for example carry medicine In the human body or clean up the plaquesArteriosclerosis in a arteries before it decomposes naturally. They can also collect plastic from the ocean, Digestion of toxic substances or radioactive or identify particles in environments inaccessible to humans. But this technology presents even more surprising possibilities. By building them from neurons and sensory cells, xenorobots can be endowed with cognitive abilities and become “intelligent.”

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Will robots turn on us?

Visions that have cause for concern, some alarming, of potential hijacking of such robots (the fear is fueled by the fact that the project is partly funded by DARPA, the research arm of the US military). Even if they are not yet able to reproduce or evolve, we can imagine colonies of robots deciding on their own to invade an organism, Spreading a deadly virus or destroy things. Currently, their behavior is driven by their determination, which is determined by algorithms. Except that AI is a true black box, its ins and outs are slipping away from us more and more. The creation of entirely new organisms outside of all biological evolution raises many ethical questions. Something to feed upcoming science fiction movies.

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