Is this the future of robotics ? Image Credit: Douglas Blackiston / Tufts University / University of Vermont
Researchers have succeeded in creating robots that are made from live animal cells instead of metal and plastic.
This remarkable achievement comes courtesy of roboticists in the United States who used the skin and heart cells of African clawed frogs to produce robots capable of moving around all on their own.
"These are entirely new lifeforms," said Michael Levin from the Allen Discovery Center at Tufts University in Medford, Massachusetts. "They are living, programmable organisms."
Measuring less than 1mm in length, these tiny robots are based on designs produced by a supercomputer which churned out and tested hundreds of possible 3D configurations.
"The aim is to understand the software of life," said Levin.
"If you think about birth defects, cancer, age-related diseases, all of these things could be solved if we knew how to make biological structures, to have ultimate control over growth and form."
While the potential scientific and medical benefits of the research are clear, some scientists have raised questions about the ethics of working with what are essentially new life forms.
"At what point would they become beings with interests that ought to be protected ?" said Thomas Douglas from the Oxford Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics.
"I think they'd acquire moral significance only if they included neural tissue that enabled some kind of mental life, such as the ability to experience pain."
Source: The Guardian | Comments (60)