After creating the world's first living robots, United States-based scientists have discovered that they can now reproduce in a way different from any plant or animal, a CNN report quoting a scientific study stated on Monday. Scientists have called xenobots "the first-ever, self-replicating living robots."
The tiny organisms were unveiled in 2020, after a group of scientists at the University of Vermont, Tufts University and Harvard University's Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering found that they could move, work together in groups and self-heal, the report stated.
Xenobots are sized less than a millimetre, created from the stem cells of the African clawed frog – scientifically known as Xenopus laevis – from where it derives the name. The scientists believe that the new discovery could serve fruitful in the medical field.
Michael Levin, a professor of biology and director of the Allen Discovery Center at Tufts University, told CNN, "Frogs have a way of reproducing that they normally use but when you... liberate (the cells) from the rest of the embryo and you give them a chance to figure out how to be in a new environment, not only do they figure out a new way to move, but they also figure out apparently a new way to reproduce."
"These things move around in the dish and make copies of themselves," Josh Bongard of the University of Vermont, the lead author of the research, told The Guardian.
"These are very small, biodegradable and biocompatible machines, and they're perfectly happy in freshwater," he said, adding that near-term applications could include collecting microplastics from waterways.
Meanwhile, speaking to CNN, Bongard highlighted that people think robots are metal and ceramic "but it's not so much what a robot is made from but what it does, which is acting on its own on behalf of people".
The study was published in the scientific journal PNAS on Monday.