Scientists create “xenobots” capable of reproducing – .

Scientists create “xenobots” capable of reproducing – .

TORONTO – Scientists in the United States have created robots capable of spontaneous replication in what they call a “deep” discovery.

The study, published Monday in Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, found this These computer-designed, hand-assembled organisms called “xenobots” can reproduce in a way unknown in plants and animals.

“People have thought for quite a long time that we have worked out all the ways that life can reproduce or replicate itself, but this is something that has never been observed before,” Douglas Blackiston, co-author and principal investigator at Tufts University and Harvard University, said in a press release.

Xenobots were first developed and reported in 2020. They are made from approximately 3,000 embryonic skin cells of an African clawed frog.

The researchers found that these xenobots – when designed correctly – can swim while collecting hundreds of individual cells to assemble smaller versions of themselves in their mouths. These smaller xenobots can grow to their normal size in a matter of days.

This method of reproduction is known as kinematic replication and is common in molecules, but has never been seen in cells or organisms.

“It’s deep,” Michael Levin, study co-lead and professor of biology and director of the Allen Discovery Center at Tufts University. “These cells have the genome of a frog, but, freed from becoming tadpoles, they use their collective intelligence, a plasticity, to do something amazing. “

To uncover the reproductive abilities of xenobots, the researchers used a University of Vermont supercomputer to simulate billions of body shapes to determine what would be ideal for kinematic replication.

Months later, the computer returned a xenobot in a form that resembled a Pac-Man figure, with a large mouth that can be used to build other xenobots.

“It sounds very simple, but it’s not something a human engineer could come up with,” said Sam Kriegman, lead author of the study and post-doctoral researcher at Tufts University and the ‘Harvard University.

For those concerned about the idea of ​​self-replicating biotechnology, the researchers point out that federal, state and institutional ethics experts have also endorsed the study. It is also contained in a laboratory and can be extinguished easily.

“What poses a risk is the next pandemic, which is accelerating the damage to ecosystems from pollution and (and) intensifying threats from climate change,” said Joshua Bongard, computer scientist and robotics expert at the University. from Vermont.

“It is an ideal system for studying self-replicating systems. We have a moral imperative to understand the conditions under which we can control it, direct it, turn it off, exaggerate it. “

The researchers also note that this technology has many potential benefits for humans, including regenerative medicine, cleaning up ocean pollution, and vaccine research.


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