Part Robot, Part Frog: Xenobots Are the First Robots Made From Living Cells

Scientists reassemble a frog’s living cells into robotic devices — with no electronics required.

The African clawed frog, Xenopus laevis, typically lives in the streams and ponds of sub-Saharan Africa, scavenging for food that it rips apart with its feet. In January, researchers at the University of Vermont and Tufts University published a report that gave the amphibian a different lot in life. They harvested its embryonic skin and heart cells and reassembled the living matter into robotic devices — transforming Xenopus into xenobot.

Xenobots are the first robots made completely of living materials. They’re designed on a supercomputer running software that emulates natural selection: Algorithms determine possible effective tissue configurations for a xenobot to perform a specified task, such as moving through fluids or carrying a payload. The most promising designs are sculpted with tiny forceps and cauterizing irons, then set free in petri dishes, where the specks of amphibian flesh live for about a week before decomposing. There are no electronics involved. Behaviors are programmed entirely through the structural arrangement of the pulsating heart cells held in a matrix of rigid skin cells. Via – Discover Magazine

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