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Self-healing “Xenobots” mean the future of living machines

A hundred years ago, It is easy to tell when it is a machine. Developmental biologist Michael Levin tells us that the machine is “hard, awkward, metal and heavy.” inverse.

But recently, Levine and his collaborator, University of Vermont computer science professor Joshua Bongard (Joshua Bongard) have become very clear that our definition of “machine” and “living organism” will become very, very blurry.

In January 2020, the two made headlines after announcing that their team had successfully created a “full biological machine.” Now, Levine and Bongarde have taken their biological machines (“Xenobots”

😉 to a new level-using frog cells to create life forms that can move, remember, and manipulate the world around them.

These incredible results were published in the magazine on Wednesday Scientific robot.

Background- The 2020 biological machine is designed through computer simulation and then made in a Petri dish using micro scalpels and living biological tissues, which are skin and muscle cells harvested from the embryos of African clawed frog Xenopus laevis. In other words, their design is like designing a robot, but the raw material is 100% living cells.

Levin and Bongard’s design is reminiscent of beauty and the Beast Once sculpted into a shape, it actually contracts its muscle cells and passes through the plate. After donating frog cells, they called their living creatures Xenobots (pronounced zenno-bot).

Levine, a professor at Tufts University, said: “In the first paper, we have shown some organisms whose evolutionary history occurred in computers.”

“They have a history of evolution, but they are not on Earth. Josh Bongard was written in this completely virtual world.”

A few weeks ago, Bongard published his new theory that still uses metaphors, namely that living things are as useful as machines (destroyer: no). In the team’s latest robot advancement, no carving is required. The new Xenobots are not footstools, but fields. And they have no muscle cells, they are all skin. But they can still move.

what’s new – A skin Xenopus laevis Frogs are covered with cilia-like hair-like structures that redistribute mucus on their skin. This is a way to prevent the growth of bacteria and fungi. When you put the embryonic skin cells together, they will gather into small balls with cilia on the outside.

The team found that the cilia on this new Xenobot “can work together so that things can move forward,” Levine said. “They started quarreling and things started.”

Researchers also conducted tests to see if some form of basic memory can be used to set up Xenobots. They injected them with RNA, which encodes a protein that changes color when exposed to a certain color of light. How it works: These robots make proteins, and it’s obvious which robots “see” the light when they return to another color.

Levine said: “This is a proof in principle that we can modify cells to put in other things that give them new functions.” “Today’s synthetic biology is a’cell soup’, which is all cells in culture. . Now they can be embodied-we have a body in which all types of circuits can be placed.”

The team is also interested in how Xenobots function as a group. Bongard ran more computational simulations to try to predict what would happen when the robot was brought into the arena of a bunch of particles. How will the robot’s actions redistribute the particles? Can you pile them up?

This is an iterative process that requires measuring the attributes of Xenobot, then putting the data into a computer simulation to make predictions, then testing these predictions on the bot and measuring again. Levine said: “It can be simulated, experimented, simulated, experimented, and after each reincarnation we become smarter.”

Why is it important- In fact, Xenobots may have applications such as swimming in the blood and unblocking arteries. But Levine is more excited about the overall situation.

“Most problems in modern medicine will go away…If we understand how to make cells build the cells we want. “

When Xenobots grow in a short 10-day life cycle, they will elongate and become transparent.

Levine said: “They almost look like ghosts.” “It’s not surprising, they don’t look like frog embryos, they don’t look like t. They have their own new development sequence.”

Levin explained that this is a brand new model organism that will help us understand how cells build structures and how to “inspire them” to make things other than genetic defaults without the need for genetic engineering.

He said: “Most of the problems of modern medicine will disappear… if we understand how to make cells build whatever we want them to build,”

When it came time to explore whether this structure of ciliated cells could move by accident, Levine rejected the question. He said that many people don’t pay enough attention to evolution.

“Our own complex cognitive characteristics have evolved from humble, simpler versions, and the other characteristics of these versions are exactly the same. [earlier] biological. “He said.

“[Are the Xenobots] Use physics to readjust the mechanism in a way that chemistry and physics can explain? of course can. There is no magic. But it is the same for us. When we walk around, we are using the electrical network in the brain to activate our muscles. This does not mean that it is more magical. “

People are very dualistic in things. They said it was a robot or a creature? Yes, yes,” Levine said. “These binary classifications no longer apply. “

What’s the next step? – Levin and his team are advancing their experiments, including some experiments using cells from sources other than frogs. His curiosity about how cell groups work together to form a certain collective intelligence drives him-just like our human brain.

He said: “This question has kept me awake since I was a child.” “How does the structure of the body relate to the thoughts that live in it in some way?”

As these robots in life become more and more complex, society will have to struggle with the meaning of cognition. Levine envisions the future of a science fiction film that will challenge how we view perception and what we deserve ethically.

“In your lifetime, we will be surrounded by an incredible number of new agents, which are weird hybrids, artificial robots, and robots and robots embedded in living tissue. [vice versa] “Every combination in the sun will run around somewhere,” Levine said.

Abstract: So far, the robot group is made of man-made materials. Movable biological constructs are produced from muscle cells grown on precisely shaped scaffolds. However, applying the emerging self-organization and functional plasticity to self-directed living machines remains a major challenge. We report here a method for generating in vitro biorobots from frogs (Xenopus laevis) Cells. These heterogeneous robots exhibit coordinated movement through the cilia on their surfaces. These cilia are formed by normal tissue patterns and do not require complicated construction methods or genome editing, making production suitable for high-throughput projects. Biorobots are produced through the self-organization of cells and do not require scaffolds or microprints; in the self-assembly process, amphibian cells are very suitable for surgery, genetics, chemical and optical stimulation. We show that heterogeneous robots can navigate in the water environment in a variety of ways, can be cured after being damaged, and exhibit sudden group behaviors. We built a computational model to predict useful collective behaviors that can be triggered from heterogeneous robot swarms. In addition, we provide a proof of principle for writable molecular memory using a switchable protein that can record exposure to light of a specific wavelength. Together, these results introduce a platform that can be used to study many aspects of self-assembly, group behavior, and synthetic bioengineering, and provide a multi-functional software living machine for many practical applications in biomedicine and the environment.

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