Computer scientists and biologists have teamed up to create a new class of living robotics that challenges the digital-biological boundaries.
If the last few decades of advancement in artificial intelligence and molecular biology joined up, their love child a class of life unlike anything that has ever existed could look like the dark specks in a Tufts University laboratory doing lazy laps around a petri dish.
Biologist Douglas Blackiston pointed to one that was only a little wider than a human hair; squint, and you could only tell it was moving. But the blob was moving upwards and to the left under a microscope. He’s a lighter said Dr. Blackiston, catching himself then. “It is a lighter hue.”
Strictly speaking, sex organs or stomachs, brains or nervous systems have no such life-forms.
The one under the microscope consisted of some 2,000 living skin cells taken from an embryo of frogs Bigger specimens, but still smaller than a millimeter long poppy seed, have cells of the skin and muscle cells of the heart that will begin to pulsate by day.
All of these are programmable organisms called xenobiotics, whose existence was revealed in a January science paper.
They are named for the African clawed frog Xenopus laevis, which supplies all of their cells, and the suggestion that something unusual, foreign, is at work, encapsulated in the prefix.
A xenobiotic lives for just about a week, feeding on the tiny yolk platelets that fill each of its cells and would normally fuel embryonic development. Since its building blocks are living cells, even after being cut nearly in half, the organism will cure the injury.
But what it does in its short life is not decreed by the ineffable frogginess etched in its DNA which was not inherited.
And xenobiotics come in several forms, all built-in computer simulations by robotics using physics engines similar to those used in video games such as Fortnite and Minecraft.
Xenobiotics with a fork or snowplow like front appendage will sweep loose particles (in a petri dish) overnight, and position them in a pile.
Others use hands, others form of, to walk on the platter board. Others bathe in, Using beating cilia, or connect blobby appendages together and circle each other a few times before going off in separate directions.
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