Available for logged-in reporters only
Newswise A book is made of wood. But it is not a tree. The dead cells have been repurposed to serve another need.
Now a team of scientists has repurposed living cells--scraped from frog embryos--and assembled them into entirely new life-forms. These millimeter-wide "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.
"These are novel living machines," saysJoshua Bongard, a computer scientist and robotics expert at the University of Vermont who co-led the new research. "They're neither a traditional robot nor a known species of animal. It's a new class of artifact: a living, programmable organism."
The new creatures were designed on a supercomputer at UVM--and then assembled and tested by biologists at Tufts University. "We can imagine many useful applications of these living robots that other machines can't do," says co-leader Michael Levin who directs theCenter for Regenerative and Developmental Biologyat Tufts, "like searching out nasty compounds or radioactive contamination, gathering microplastic in the oceans, traveling in arteries to scrape out plaque."
The results of the new research were published January 13 in theProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
BESPOKE LIVING SYSTEMS
People have been manipulating organisms for human benefit since at least the dawn of agriculture, genetic editing is becoming widespread, and a few artificial organisms have been manually assembled in the past few years--copying the body forms of known animals.
But this research, for the first time ever, "designs completely biological machines from the ground up," the team writes in their new study.
With months of processing time on the Deep Green supercomputer cluster at UVM'sVermont Advanced Computing Core, the team--including lead author and doctoral student Sam Kriegman--used an evolutionary algorithm to create thousands of candidate designs for the new life-forms. Attempting to achieve a task assigned by the scientists--like locomotion in one direction--the computer would, over and over, reassemble a few hundred simulated cells into myriad forms and body shapes. As the programs ran--driven by basic rules about the biophysics of what single frog skin and cardiac cells can do--the more successful simulated organisms were kept and refined, while failed designs were tossed out. After a hundred independent runs of the algorithm, the most promising designs were selected for testing.
Then the team at Tufts, led by Levin and with key work by microsurgeon Douglas Blackiston--transferred the in silico designs into life. First they gathered stem cells, harvested from the embryos of African frogs, the speciesXenopus laevis. (Hence the name "xenobots.") These were separated into single cells and left to incubate. Then, using tiny forceps and an even tinier electrode, the cells were cut and joined under a microscope into a close approximation of the designs specified by the computer.
Assembled into body forms never seen in nature, the cells began to work together. The skin cells formed a more passive architecture, while the once-random contractions of heart muscle cells were put to work creating ordered forward motion as guided by the computer's design, and aided by spontaneous self-organizing patterns--allowing the robots to move on their own.
These reconfigurable organisms were shown to be able move in a coherent fashion--and explore their watery environment for days or weeks, powered by embryonic energy stores. Turned over, however, they failed, like beetles flipped on their backs.
Later tests showed that groups of xenobots would move around in circles, pushing pellets into a central location--spontaneously and collectively. Others were built with a hole through the center to reduce drag. In simulated versions of these, the scientists were able to repurpose this hole as a pouch to successfully carry an object. "It's a step toward using computer-designed organisms for intelligent drug delivery," says Bongard, a professor in UVM'sDepartment of Computer ScienceandComplex Systems Center.
Many technologies are made of steel, concrete or plastic. That can make them strong or flexible. But they also can create ecological and human health problems, like the growing scourge of plastic pollution in the oceans and the toxicity of many synthetic materials and electronics. "The downside of living tissue is that it's weak and it degrades," say Bongard. "That's why we use steel. But organisms have 4.5 billion years of practice at regenerating themselves and going on for decades." And when they stop working--death--they usually fall apart harmlessly. "These xenobots are fully biodegradable," say Bongard, "when they're done with their job after seven days, they're just dead skin cells."
Your laptop is a powerful technology. But try cutting it in half. Doesn't work so well. In the new experiments, the scientists cut the xenobots and watched what happened. "We sliced the robot almost in half and it stitches itself back up and keeps going," says Bongard. "And this is something you can't do with typical machines."
CRACKING THE CODE
Both Levin and Bongard say the potential of what they've been learning about how cells communicate and connect extends deep into both computational science and our understanding of life. "The big question in biology is to understand the algorithms that determine form and function," says Levin. "The genome encodes proteins, but transformative applications await our discovery of how that hardware enables cells to cooperate toward making functional anatomies under very different conditions."
To make an organism develop and function, there is a lot of information sharing and cooperation--organic computation--going on in and between cells all the time, not just within neurons. These emergent and geometric properties are shaped by bioelectric, biochemical, and biomechanical processes, "that run on DNA-specified hardware," Levin says, "and these processes are reconfigurable, enabling novel living forms."
The scientists see the work presented in their newPNASstudy--"A scalable pipeline for designing reconfigurable organisms,"--as one step in applying insights about this bioelectric code to both biology and computer science. "What actually determines the anatomy towards which cells cooperate?" Levin asks. "You look at the cells we've been building our xenobots with, and, genomically, they're frogs. It's 100% frog DNA--but these are not frogs. Then you ask, well, what else are these cells capable of building?"
"As we've shown, these frog cells can be coaxed to make interesting living forms that are completely different from what their default anatomy would be," says Levin. He and the other scientists in the UVM and Tufts team--with support from DARPA's Lifelong Learning Machines program and the National Science Foundation-- believe that building the xenobots is a small step toward cracking what he calls the "morphogenetic code," providing a deeper view of the overall way organisms are organized--and how they compute and store information based on their histories and environment.
Many people worry about the implications of rapid technological change and complex biological manipulations. "That fear is not unreasonable," Levin says. "When we start to mess around with complex systems that we don't understand, we're going to get unintended consequences." A lot of complex systems, like an ant colony, begin with a simple unit--an ant--from which it would be impossible to predict the shape of their colony or how they can build bridges over water with their interlinked bodies.
"If humanity is going to survive into the future, we need to better understand how complex properties, somehow, emerge from simple rules," says Levin. Much of science is focused on "controlling the low-level rules. We also need to understand the high-level rules," he says. "If you wanted an anthill with two chimneys instead of one, how do you modify the ants? We'd have no idea."
"I think it's an absolute necessity for society going forward to get a better handle on systems where the outcome is very complex," Levin says. "A first step towards doing that is to explore: how do living systems decide what an overall behavior should be and how do we manipulate the pieces to get the behaviors we want?"
In other words, "this study is a direct contribution to getting a handle on what people are afraid of, which is unintended consequences," Levin says--whether in the rapid arrival of self-driving cars, changing gene drives to wipe out whole lineages of viruses, or the many other complex and autonomous systems that will increasingly shape the human experience.
"There's all of this innate creativity in life," says UVM's Josh Bongard. "We want to understand that more deeply--and how we can direct and push it toward new forms."
SEE ORIGINAL STUDY
Read the original here:
Team Builds the First Living Robots - Newswise
- The Role of Quality and Speed in Custom Model Generation - FierceBiotech - October 5th, 2021
- Healthcare Researchers Are Putting HUMAN Immune Systems In Pigs To Study Illnesses-Here's The Tech Behind It - Tech Times - October 5th, 2021
- Stem cells may be the key to saving white rhinos from extinction - Sciworthy - October 5th, 2021
- Global Allogenic Stem Cell Therapy Market 2021 Size, Share, Growth and Regional Analysis by Segmentation and Country Forecast to 2028 - Digital... - October 5th, 2021
- Human Embryonic Stem Cells Market 2021 Is Booming Across the Globe by Share, Size, Growth, Segments and Forecast to 2027 The Courier - The Courier - June 8th, 2021
- Conversion of mouse embryonic fibroblasts into neural crest cells and functional corneal endothelia by defined small molecules - Science Advances - June 8th, 2021
- Global Stem Cells Market Regulations and Competitive Landscape Outlook, 2020 to 2025 The Courier - The Courier - June 8th, 2021
- Global cell isolation market was valued at USD7013.71 million in 2020 and is anticipated to reach USD15529.45 million by 2026 - Yahoo Finance - June 8th, 2021
- Human blastocyst-like structures generated entirely from pluripotent stem cells. Shifting the paradigm of developmental biology? - ESHRE - April 4th, 2021
- Human Embryonic Stem Cells (HESC) Market 2021 Is Rapidly Increasing Worldwide in Near Future | Top Companies Analysis- ESI BIO, Thermo Fisher,... - April 4th, 2021
- New Michigan law requires those receiving Johnson & Johnson vaccine be told it was developed using stem cells | TheHill - The Hill - April 4th, 2021
- Xenobots 2.0 are Here and Still Developed With Frog Stem Cells - Unite.AI - April 4th, 2021
- Global Human Embryonic Stem Cells Industry Market 2021 In-depth Industry Analysis, Growth By 2027:Lonza Group Ltd., Life Technologies Corporation,... - April 4th, 2021
- AgeX Therapeutics Reports Fourth Quarter and Annual 2020 Financial Results and Provides Business Update - Business Wire - April 4th, 2021
- Research Associate in Stem Cells and Regenerative Medicine job with KINGS COLLEGE LONDON | 246711 - Times Higher Education (THE) - February 17th, 2021
- Stem Cells Market Size 2021 by Share Growing Rapidly with Recent Trends, Size, Development, Revenue, Demand and Forecast to 2024 NeighborWebSJ -... - February 17th, 2021
- Cell transplant therapy could be a treatment for leading cause of blindness - The Denver Channel - February 17th, 2021
- Cellular Reprogramming Tools Market likely to touch new heights by end of forec - Business-newsupdate.com - February 17th, 2021
- Human Embryonic Stem Cells Market Analysis By Growth ... - February 9th, 2021
- Pros and Cons of embryonic stem cells - Pros an Cons - February 9th, 2021
- Worldwide Cell Therapy Industry to 2027 - Profiling Allosource, Medipost and Mesoblast Among Others - PRNewswire - February 9th, 2021
- Reactivation of the pluripotency program precedes formation of the cranial neural crest - Science Magazine - February 4th, 2021
- Should We Double The Age When Science Can Experiment On Babies? - 550 KTSA - February 4th, 2021
- Why Cynata is hopeful its COVID treatment trial will succeed where others have failed - Business News Australia - February 4th, 2021
- Missouri State Representative Indicted Over Alleged Stem Cell Therapy Scam - IFLScience - February 4th, 2021
- Global Human Embryonic Stem Cells Market increasing demand with Industry Professionalist |know the Brand Players forecast 2027 Jumbo News - Jumbo... - February 4th, 2021
- Push on to Allow Expanded Human-Embryo Research - National Review - February 4th, 2021
- Stem Cells Market is Expected to Thrive at Impressive CAGR by 2025 Murphy's Hockey Law - Murphy's Hockey Law - February 4th, 2021
- Stem Cell Therapy Market Size, Top Key Players, Applications, Business Statistics, Trends and Forecast 2021-2027 The Bisouv Network - The Bisouv... - February 4th, 2021
- Stem Cell Therapy Market Size to Reach USD 5,040 Million by 2028 | Rising Public-Private Investments and Developing Regulatory Framework for Stem Cell... - January 30th, 2021
- Stem Cell Therapy Market 2021: Global Key Players, Trends, Share, Industry Size, Segmentation, Forecast To 2027 KSU | The Sentinel Newspaper - KSU |... - January 30th, 2021
- Stem Cell Manufacturing includes Attractiveness and Raw Material Analysis and Competitor Position Grid Analysis to 2027 | Merck KGaA, Thermo Fisher... - January 30th, 2021
- RNA Molecules Are Masters of Their Own Destiny Regulating Their Own Production Through a Feedback Loop - SciTechDaily - January 30th, 2021
- The chromosomal protein SMCHD1 regulates DNA methylation and the 2c-like state of embryonic stem cells by antagonizing TET proteins - Science Advances - January 23rd, 2021
- North America to be the Torchbearer to Stem Cell Characterization And Analysis Tools Market NeighborWebSJ - NeighborWebSJ - January 23rd, 2021
- New Research Grant Seeks to Clarify the Role Genes Play in Modulating Inflammation - NYU Langone Health - January 23rd, 2021
- JARID2 and AEBP2 regulate PRC2 in the presence of H2AK119ub1 and other histone modifications - Science Magazine - January 23rd, 2021
- DiNAQOR Acquires EHT Technologies GmbH to Advance Engineered Heart Tissue R&D Capabilities - PRNewswire - January 19th, 2021
- TBC1D3 promotes neural progenitor proliferation by suppressing the histone methyltransferase G9a - Science Advances - January 19th, 2021
- 'He was very honored in his work' - Mercer Island Reporter - December 28th, 2020
- Israeli biotech firm's ALS treatment shows safety of use in trials - The Jerusalem Post - December 16th, 2020
- Ca Bishops To Work w/ Govt on Vaccination Campaigns - Catholic Herald Online - December 14th, 2020
- Human Embryonic Stem Cells (HESC) Market 2019 | Analyzing The Impact Followed By Restraints, Opportunities And Projected Developments | DataIntelo -... - December 6th, 2020
- Stem Cell Market Technology 2021 and Application, Segmentation by Leading Global Players, Market Status by Share and Size Forecast to 2024 - The... - December 6th, 2020
- Stem Cell Therapy Market Size, Opportunities, Dynamic, Outlook and Forecast To 2027 - Cheshire Media - December 6th, 2020
- Stem Cells Market will grow at CAGR of 8.61% by 2027 Cheshire Media - Cheshire Media - December 6th, 2020
- Stem Cell Medical Research to Expand in California Following Passage of Prop. 14 - Times of San Diego - November 27th, 2020
- Mechanisms of Telomere Protection Are Unique in Stem Cells - Technology Networks - November 27th, 2020
- Stem Cells Market by 2020 Research Report by Manufactures, Types, Applications, Regions and Trends to 2024 | Absolute Reports - The Market Feed - November 25th, 2020
- Autologous Stem Cell Based Therapies Market Share, Growth by Top Company, Region, Application, Driver, Trends & Forecasts by 2026 - PRnews Leader - November 25th, 2020
- Stem Cells Market Research Provides an In-Depth Analysis on the Future Growth Prospects and Industry Trends Adopted by the Competitors | (2020-2027),... - November 25th, 2020
- Stem Cells Market 2020: Rising with Immense Development Trends across the Globe by 2027 - The Market Feed - November 25th, 2020
- Global Regenerative Medicine Market 2020-2025: Opportunities with the Implementation of the 21st Century Cures Act - Yahoo Finance - November 25th, 2020
- Stem Cell Characterization and Analysis Tool Market 2020: Potential growth, attractive valuation make it is a long-term investment | Know the COVID19... - November 25th, 2020
- Autologous Stem Cell Based Therapies Market 2020 Emerging Trend and Advancement - News by aeresearch - November 9th, 2020
- Human Embryonic Stem Cells (HESC) Market 2020 Manufacturer Analysis, Emerging Trends, Top Companies and Forecast to 2027 - TechnoWeekly - November 7th, 2020
- Voters asked to approve $5.5 billion for stem cell research - Lebanon Express - November 7th, 2020
- Transcriptional priming as a conserved mechanism of lineage diversification in the developing mouse and human neocortex - Science Advances - November 7th, 2020
- Cell Therapy Manufacturing Market to be Worth USD 8 billion by 2030, predicts Roots Analysis - PRnews Leader - November 7th, 2020
- U.S. elections bring wins and losses for research community - Science Magazine - November 5th, 2020
- Stem Cell Therapy Market Size, Key Development Trends, and Growth Projection to 2027 - Stock Market Vista - November 5th, 2020
- Global Stem Cells Market 2020 Industry Outlook, Growth, Comprehensive Insights and Forecast 2025 - PRnews Leader - November 5th, 2020
- Panelists debate the implications and ethics of stem cell research - Johns Hopkins News-Letter - October 30th, 2020
- Stem Cell and Regenerative Therapy Market to Remain Balanced During the the COVID-19 Period - re:Jerusalem - October 30th, 2020
- Study Identifies Pitfall for Correcting Mutations in Human Embryos with CRISPR - Columbia University Irving Medical Center - October 30th, 2020
- Yale New Haven Health Docs: Interpreting the Uptick in Covid-19 Cases - Greenwich Free Press - October 30th, 2020
- Is the Pro-Life Movement on a Collision Course with the Coronavirus? - The Dispatch - October 29th, 2020
- Outlook for stem cell therapy - its role in tendon regeneration - different treatments for horse tendon injuries - Trainer Magazine - October 29th, 2020
- Yale Health advises against large Thanksgiving gatherings; eastern Connecticut now considered a 'hot spot' - The Westerly Sun - October 29th, 2020
- Stem Cell Therapy Market to Register Unwavering Growth During 2025 - The Think Curiouser - October 29th, 2020
- Human Embryonic Stem Cells (HESC) Market Share, Analysis and In-depth Research on Market Size, Trends, Emerging Growth Factors and Regional Forecasts... - October 20th, 2020
- COVID-19 Analysis to Understand the Competitive Outlook of Human Embryonic Stem Cells (HESC) Market - The Think Curiouser - October 20th, 2020
- Competitive Landscape of Human Embryonic Stem Cells (HESC) Market 2020 | Global Industry Size, Volume, Trends and Revenue Forecast to 2025 - The Think... - October 20th, 2020
- Stem Cells Market 2020 is predicted to rise with a CAGR of XX% by 2026 | Including Growth Prospect, Market Size & Growth, Key Vendors, Top most... - October 20th, 2020
- Global Stem Cell Reconstructive Market- Industry Analysis and Forecast (2020-2027) - Stock Market Vista - October 20th, 2020
- Global Stem Cell Manufacturing Market: Industry Analysis and forecast 2019 2027: By Product, Application, End-Users and Region - Stock Market Vista - October 20th, 2020
- The Infodemic: Was Regeneron COVID-19 Treatment Developed Using Stem Cells and Fetal Tissue? - Voice of America - October 15th, 2020
- COVID-19 Impact on Global Human Embryonic Stem Cells Market 2020 Industry Overview, Demand and Insights Analysis Report by 2026 ESI BIO, Thermo... - October 15th, 2020
- Yes on 14 | Mailbox | independentnews.com - Livermore Independent - October 15th, 2020
- I've Spent Decades Studying How People Build Their Families. Here's What I've Learned Matters Most - TIME - October 15th, 2020