Perhaps a few years ago, the thought of building novel organisms from scratch might have been overconfident. Today, it’s simply something scientists are able to do. Xenobots, the new kid on the block, are both tiny living organisms made of biological matter and machines.
How does it work? What is their purpose and why their creation is a big deal in the world of biotechnology and engineering? Find the answers below!
A Bit of Background
What are these living robots? These were designed with the help of a computer but were built from frog skin and heart cells. In fact, their name derives from Xenopus laevis, the frog species they used. The cells were assembled by the team with the help of microsurgical tools and then grown in a manner that matched the computer-generated structure. They are about a millimeter wide and they exist thanks to scientists from the University of Vermont and Tufts University.
Why Are They Considered Robots?
If they are made from living cells, aren’t they just artificially-created organisms? Well, xenobots can’t be fully classified as a lifeform as they lack the ability to reproduce, feed, and respond to external stimuli. However, the reconfigurable organisms that live in an aquatic environment can achieve deliberate movements thanks to the energy supplied from their cells and even stitch themselves back together, which was found in an experiment that cut them almost in half.
Potential Uses of Xenobots
The never-before-seen lifeforms can have endless applications to our lives, especially when the technology behind creating them advances even more. They could be used for targeting cancer cells, hunting for radioactive contamination, and even clear out artery plaque. Once sent into an environment, they can be programmed to convert unwanted materials into a harmless form and fully deteriorate thanks to their biological cells.
There could be many legal and ethical implications to follow. Yet, this biotechnological innovation can open the door to many still unforeseeable benefits that stem from the ground-up creation of robotic living organisms like xenobots.