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  • In 2020, the world saw its first glimpse of a living robot.

  • Known as the Xenobot, this microscale organism could move, self-heal, and work with other bots to meet a common goal.

  • But all these features have gotten a massive upgrade including..memory.

  • Say hello to Xenobot 2.0.

  • The original Xenobots were developed by a team of biologists and computer engineers at Tufts University and the University of Vermont.

  • These micromachines measured less than a millimeter wide and could work together to push payloads.

  • They were formed using skin and heart muscle cells harvested from the embryos of the African claw-toed frog.

  • The team then used a sophisticated algorithm to generate a variety of Xenobot designs.

  • From those designs, scientists performed microsurgery to poke, prod, and shape the stem cells according to the algorithm.

  • They had a variety of looks, from two-lobed blobs to hollow structures depending on what task was needed for the little bot to accomplish.

  • And they could do a lot, like propel themselves in straight lines and circles,

  • and herd loose particles into tiny heaps together.

  • And now, Xenobots are headed to the next level.

  • Instead of using muscle cells, Xenobot 2.0 moves using cilia,

  • which are tiny hair-like features that move similarly to how oars propel a rowboat through water.

  • By extracting skin stem cells from a frog's embryo, the team then allowed the cells to self assemble as they naturally would.

  • They independently formed into spheres, and after approximately four days,

  • some of those stem cells started to moveall due to the presence of hundreds of individual cilia along the surface of the cell.

  • This allowed the individual self-assembled cell to freelyswimusing theirhairsto propel them across surfaces.

  • The development of cilia is a perfect example of how the genetic makeup of the frog has been preserved.

  • This makeup also has the ability to recover from damage.

  • The original Xenobots could self-repair, but biologists have really dialed things up with the next generation.

  • The new bots are more durable and capable of recovering from a full-length cut after just five minutes of injury.

  • Additional testing has also found that 100% of injured Xenobots completely healed within 15 minutes.

  • And then they just go back to what they were doing...just another walk in the microscopic park!

  • But what's the biggest upgrade of Xenobot 2.0? That has to be its ability to remember...

  • which no Xenobot has been able to do before.

  • This is done through an injection of mRNA into the frog embryo before harvesting the stem cell tissue.

  • The mRNA is coded for a special fluorescent protein known as EosFP.

  • EosFP is naturally found in stony coral and emits green light.

  • But when exposed to 390-nanometers of blue light, it will emit red light instead.

  • Researchers were able to prove the memory functionality by exposing a few Xenobots to this wavelength,

  • resulting in their emitting red light, while the unexposed bots remained green.

  • By proving that the bots can be engineered to record memory, scientists are hoping to use this feature in the future

  • to not only detect light but also the presence of radioactive substances, chemical pollutants, and even diseases.

  • And thinking even further into the future, the memory functionality could be used as a trigger within the bots to change their behavior in reaction to their environment.

  • The real-life applications of these Xenobots seem endless, spanning everything from ocean cleanup to regenerative medicine.

  • Researchers are now focusing on two things: the process of how cells communicate to form an organism,

  • and the genomes needed to create more advanced living robots in the future.

  • In fact, the team behind Xenobot 2.0 launched the Institute for Computationally Designed Organisms

  • to continue the development of living robots that can accomplish even more sophisticated tasks.

  • So, who knows what we'll see next...maybe Xenobot 3.0?

  • What would you like to see this little bot accomplish?

  • Let us know down in the comments. And if you want to learn more about the team's first Xenobot, then check out our video on that here.

  • Make sure to subscribe to Seeker for more mind-blowing science and thanks for watching. I'll see you next time.

In 2020, the world saw its first glimpse of a living robot.

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