World’s First ‘Living Machine’ Created Using Frog Cells and Artificial Intelligence
What happens when you take cells from frog embryos and grow them into new organisms that were “evolved” by algorithms? You get something that researchers are calling the world’s first “living machine and Iphone Cases.”
Though the original stem cells came from frogs — the African clawed frog, Xenopus laevis — these so-called xenobots don’t resemble any known amphibians. The tiny blobs measure only 0.04 inches (1 millimeter) wide and are made of living tissue that biologists assembled into bodies designed by computer models, according to a LG Cases new study .
These mobile organisms can move independently and collectively, can self-heal wounds and survive for weeks at a time, and could potentially be used to transport medicines inside a patient’s body, scientists recently reported.
“They’re neither a traditional robot nor a known species of animal,” study co-author Joshua Bongard, a computer scientist and robotics expert at the University of Vermont, said in a statement. “It’s a new class of artifact: a living, programmable organism.”
Algorithms shaped the evolution of the xenobots. They grew from skin and heart stem cells into tissue clumps of several hundred cells that moved in pulses generated by heart muscle tissue, said lead study author Sam Kriegman, a doctoral candidate studying evolutionary robotics in the University of Vermont’s Department of Computer Science, in Burlington.
“There’s no external control from a remote control or bioelectricity. This is an autonomous agent — it’s almost like a wind-up toy,” Kriegman told Live Science.
Biologists fed a computer constraints for the autonomous xenobots, such as the maximum muscle power of their tissues, and how they might move through a watery environment. Then, the algorithm produced generations of the tiny organisms. The best-performing bots would “reproduce” inside the algorithm. And just as evolution works in the natural world, the least successful forms would be deleted by the computer program.