World’s First Living Robots Can Now Reproduce

Last year, researchers in the US created the world’s first living machine, called xenobots. Composed of bundles of stem cells from the African clawed frog (xenopus laevis), the new life form was programmed to accomplish tasks and move microscopic objects around. Now, they can reproduce. “One [xenobot] parent can begin a pile and then, by chance, a second parent can push more cells into that pile, and so on, generating the child,” says the study’s co-author Josh Bongard. This process, in which the bots scoop up around 3,000 free cells to form baby clusters, takes around five days to complete and is referred to as kinesthetic self-replication, a process only found in molecules. While there’s a limit to how many times the xenobots can reproduce, the researchers are hopeful that this development could lead to innovations in medicine and environmental containment. Learn more about about it at Smithsonian Magazine.

Image courtesy of Douglas Blackiston/Tufts University