Scientists have designed what they say is the first self-replicating “robot” made from living cells.
At first, these weird-looking “Zenobots” may seem remarkable for their superficial resemblance to Pac-Man, but their resemblance to video game characters is probably the most bizarre to them. It’s not a thing.
These rare robot creatures are spin-offs of what the same researcher announced last year. The world’s first robot made entirely of living cells – in this case, Stem cells Taken from an embryonic frog.
“These are novel living machines,” said Joshua Bongard, a computer scientist and roboticist at the University of Vermont. I explained at that time..
“They are neither traditional robots nor known animal species. It is a new class of artifacts: living, programmable creatures.”
Now Bongard and his collaborators are taking the next step, empowering Zenobot to self-replicate and create new versions.
In this case, self-replication is not achieved with a type of replication technique. We usually see in biological organisms..
Instead, researchers placed a sufficient number of heterogeneous bots in close proximity to each other in a Petri dish, and their collective movement began to stack up other loose frog cells floating in solution. I found that.
When these cells are fully stacked, a heap of about 50 cells becomes a kind of offspring of a heterologous bot organism that can swim on its own, thereby stacking its own offspring.
This phenomenon, called spontaneous kinematic self-replication, was previously seen in other species of animals. Molecular machines and modelsBut never before in a living multicellular system like a heterologous bot.
“Synthetic multicellular assemblies have also been found to be able to replicate kinematically by moving and compressing dissected cells in the environment into functional self-copy,” the researchers say. Explain in a new paper Describes reconstructable creatures.
“This form of perpetuation, previously unseen in any organism, occurs spontaneously over days, rather than evolving for thousands of years.”
Above: Simulation (left) predicts the actual self-replicating system in vitro (right).
To create a self-replicating robot, researchers extracted pluripotent stem cells from Xenopus laevis (Xenopus laevis)Xenopus laevis) When the embryo skin is cultured in saline, many cells attach to the spheroid during that time, and cilia can grow and move around in the outer layer.
When a dozen first-generation organisms are dropped into the second dish along with dissociated stem cells, the movement of the organisms causes the stem cells to pile up, forming a new-generation organism, and then repeating the same stacking operation. It was done. Bring the cells to the heap.
However, the same dissociated stem cells left in solution do not self-assemble, indicating that the initial movement of progenitor cell heterologous bots is required to trigger formation into aggregated organisms.
The possibility of this kinematic self-replication, previously unseen in plants and animals, without genetic modification shows how biological entities can fundamentally adapt and change in response to the environment. , The researchers explained in the paper.
The team also discovered that it can be used to amplify the phenomenon. Artificial intelligence Simulates conditions that may enhance self-replication behavior.
“Simulations show that some shapes amplified pile size and replication rounds, while others attenuated or stopped self-replication.” Researcher explains.. “Some, if not all, shapes were better than spheroids.”
Ultimately, the shape of the semi-torus (basically 3D Pac-Man) is the best candidate for stacking loose frog cells in new organisms, changing the environment (introducing walls that limit the movement of heterogeneous bots). ) Was also helpful.
We are still beginning to tamper with these living robotic creatures, but if researchers can continue to understand how they work and determine the appropriate work to give them. , Says rare creatures can someday do useful work.
“This suggests that future technologies may become more useful as they become more widespread, with little external guidance.” Team explains, “And that life harbors amazing behavior just below the surface, waiting to be discovered.”
Survey results will be reported at PNAS..
Scientists say that strange creatures are the world’s first self-replicating “living robots.”
https://www.sciencealert.com/world-s-first-self-replicating-living-robots-look-like-pac-man-but-are-much-weirder Scientists say that strange creatures are the world’s first self-replicating “living robots.”