Living Robots: Xenobots
- 21 Jan 2020
- 2 min read
Why in News
Scientists in the United States have created the world’s first “living robots” named “xenobots”.
- The tiny robots have been built from the cells of the African clawed frog. Scientists have repurposed living cells scraped from frog embryos and assembled them into entirely new life-forms.
- The robots have been named after the species of aquatic frog Xenopus laevis, found across sub-Saharan Africa from Nigeria and Sudan to South Africa.
- While humans have been manipulating organisms for their benefit since at least the dawn of agriculture, and genetic editing has created a few artificial organisms in recent years, the latest research is a breakthrough because it designs, for the first time ever, “completely biological machines from scratch”.
- The xenobots can move toward a target, perhaps pick up a payload (like a medicine that needs to be carried to a specific place inside a patient) — and heal themselves after being cut.
- Many useful applications of these living robots include searching out nasty compounds or radioactive contamination, gathering microplastic in the oceans, travelling in arteries to scrape out plaque, etc.
- Xenopus is a genus of African frogs that are commonly known as the African clawed frogs.
- Two species of Xenopus are regularly used by biologists, Xenopus laevis and Xenopus tropicalis. Both species are fully aquatic, and are easy to maintain in captivity.
- Xenopus is a valuable tool because they are:
- Hardy, fully aquatic and easy to maintain in the laboratory,
- Produce eggs year-round,
- Eggs are a reliable and flexible material for research,
- Embryos are a good model for vertebrate development,
- Genetically similar to humans thus a good model for human disease