Scientists create world's first reproducing robots as creators hail ‘entirely new life-form'

Scientists have claimed a major breakthrough for healthcare, the environment and technology after creating the first robot in the world that is able to reproduce itself.

The robots, known as xenobots, are less than 1mm long, can heal and power themselves and are made from the skin and heart cells of frogs.

Originally developed in 2020, the xenobots are the first living robots ever created. Although technically a robot, they are a machine-animal hybrid that its creators say is an ‘entirely new life-form’.

Now, scientists have taken another leap forward by engineering the bots so they can replicate themselves – producing the world’s first self-replicating machines.

“We created xenobots that walk. We created xenobots that swim. And now we’ve created xenobots that replicate – we believe this is quite profound,” said Professor Josh Bongard, of the University of Vermont.

“Scientists have been trying to make self-replicating machines since the 1940s, but it’s turned out to be relatively difficult. We’ve only been working on xenobots for two years, and now they can self replicate,” he said.

In this new form of biological reproduction the xenobots gather single frog skin cells from their surroundings inside their Pac-Man-shaped “mouth”, compress and assemble them into a “baby” and release them back through their mouths to produce living offspring that move like themselves, the researchers said.

The offspring then do the same and the process goes on and on.

Researchers said it’s far too early to predict how their breakthrough will play out with any significant uses still likely to be years away.

However, it seems likely that it can play a considerable role in many areas – in healthcare and the environment in particular.

Their ability to procreate will greatly extend the length of time the tiny xenobots – which typically live about a week – can perform useful functions inside and outside the human body.

Researchers say xenobots could one day be programmed to move through arteries scraping away plaque, or swim through oceans removing toxic microplastic or detecting toxic chemicals.

They may also be used in the body for cleaning up arthritic joints, delivering pro-regenerative compounds, sensing trouble in the gut and intestine, healing wounds, chasing down cancer cells, and sculpting tissue for organ transplantation.

The robots are called ‘xenobots’ because they are constructed of biological material taken from the Xenopus laevis frog.

According to co-creator Professor Bongard, they look like a “popped kernel of popcorn”.

The work on xenobots also involved researchers from Harvard and Tufts universities in the US.

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