These Living Robots Can Heal Themselves Like Wolverine
In today’s mad science news, humans just made a groundbreaking creation: a living robot made from frog stem cells. It is a living organism that can be programmed by scientists to do a variety of things, like working on radioactive contamination, cleaning up microplastics in the ocean, transporting medicine into specific organs in the body, and possibly even targeting certain unwanted cells like cancer.
The creation is not a known species of animal because scientists engineered it into existence by taking stem cells from frog embryos, then used a supercomputer to design a variety of ways in which cells could grow for specific purposes. Once they had the design they wanted, the scientists incubated the stem cells to make them grow, then cut up the cells based on the supercomputer’s design, according to a report by the Independent.
The result is frightening and fascinating: a clump of cells that moved on their own in a uniform fashion, just as how the supercomputer had designed them. The organisms were able organize themselves spontaneously and push pellets around, according to the scientists.
“These are novel living machines,” said Joshua Bongard of the University of Vermont, a scientist who co-led the research. “They’re neither a traditional robot nor a known species of animal. It’s a new class of artifact: a living, programmable organism.”
Unlike traditional robots, the human-created organisms can heal themselves, like Wolverine, the mutant in X-Men with super healing abilities. The living robots self-repaired when they were sliced.
But the scientists are also afraid of what their new creation could lead to, admitting that if the living systems become sufficiently complex, they may not be able to control it or predict its behavior. Such creations could also be harnessed in unimaginable ways with costly consequences.
“This study is a direct contribution to getting a handle on what people are afraid of, which is unintended consequences,” said Michael Levin, co-leader of the research and director at the Center for Regenerative and Developmental Biology at Tufts University. “If humanity is going to survive into the future, we need to better understand how complex properties, somehow, emerge from simple rules.”