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Video: Scientists Create World's First 'Living Robots' Using Frog Stem Cells

By Tim Binnall

In what may be a somewhat unsettling glimpse into the future, scientists have created the world's first 'living robot.' According to a press release, the historic designation is derived from the fact that these tiny machines were fashioned using stem cells from frogs. By being built out of organic material, the robots are able to perform unique functions such as healing themselves when damaged or naturally 'expiring' upon the completion of their specific task.

"These are entirely new lifeforms. They have never before existed on Earth," declared one of the researchers behind the project, "they are living, programmable organisms." Since the cells for the robots were culled from the embryos of African clawed frogs, which are scientifically known as, Xenopus laevis, the diminutive machines have been given the appropriately futuristic-sounding name 'xenobots.' These initial creations measure less than a millimeter in length, are powered by heart cells, and can survive for around ten days.

However, with the proof of concept having been achieved, scientists envision developing much larger and more sophisticated designs in the future. "It's impossible to know what the applications will be for any new technology, so we can really only guess," explained another member of the research team, although some possibilities include cleaning up pollution in the ocean to administering drugs in the human body. While the development of a living robot is undoubtedly a fantastic accomplishment, the team acknowledged that it also raises some ethical questions.

To that end, they expressed hope that "we can have a discussion as a society and policymakers can decide what is the best course of action" when it comes to integrating these machines into our world someday. With regards to concerns about a proverbial 'robot apocalypse,' one of the researchers noted the diminutive and rather rudimentary nature of these initial creations and mused that "it’s hard to fear that these things are taking over any time soon."

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