Xenobots version 2.0 that has been upgraded into faster-moving living robots, to perform complex tasks, and a longer life than its first version.

In 2020, Science Times reported that scientists from the laboratories of Tufts University and the University of Vermont created a technological breakthrough of a ‘living robot’ that came from the stem cells of an African clawed frog (Xenopus laevis), called Xenobots.

These microscopic programmable living organisms have been designed with self-healing properties and the ability to keep memories.

A year later, the same scientists have unveiled the Xenobots version 2.0 that has been upgraded into faster-moving living robots, can perform more complex tasks, and live a longer life than its first version.

Dubbed as the Xenobots 2.0, these machines can now move using self-propelling hair-like structures called cilia, which lets it move faster, unlike the first version that relies on its muscles to move.

But the greatest advancement on Xenobots 2.0 is its ability to recall radioactive contamination, chemical pollutants, or a disease condition in the body by changing colors.

Xenobots 2.0

Xenobots 2.0 is an updated version of the living robots that were first unveiled in 2020. Independent reported that this year’s version comes with a vast array of upgrades.

For instance, it no longer needs muscle cells to move around as it now uses cilia. In living organisms, cilia are found inside the lungs that help push foreign bodies out of the system. But in Xenobots, it serves as tiny legs that help it move around.

Additionally, Xenobots 2.0 can now record things that happened to them by changing its colors.

In other words, the upgrades made Xenobots faster and more capable than the first version, but still retaining many of its other qualities like its self-healing properties.

Distinguished professor of biology and director of the Allen Discovery Center at Tufts University and corresponding author of the study Michael Levin said that “we are witnessing the remarkable plasticity of cellular collectives, which build a rudimentary new ‘body’ that is quite distinct from their default – in this case, a frog – despite having a completely normal genome.”

Taking inspiration from how frog cells develop to create a tadpole, their team saw that stem cells from a frog’s embryo could be repurposed to create genetically encoded hardware to make new functions, like the cilia for locomotion. He added that it was amazing that cells can create new roles and body plans even with short periods of evolutionary selection for those features.

Can Be Further Upgraded

According to the scientists, the Xenobots can be further upgraded to add more capabilities that could help improve the environment or healthcare.

“We want Xenobots to do useful work. Right now we’re giving them simple tasks, but ultimately we’re aiming for a new kind of living tool that could, for example, clean up microplastics in the ocean or contaminants in soil,” Josh Bongard of UVM said.

Their experiment on exposing some Xenobots to a 390nm wavelength light tested their memory function, MailOnline reported.

They found that the robots indeed recorded their experience in the light exposure experiment, which they believe is proof that molecular memory can be extended in the future to detect and record the presence of radioactive contamination, chemical pollutants, drugs, or a disease condition.

Originally published at Science Times