The Paper Cut

  • March 16April 14 - PROM!
  • March 16No School April 7 - Spring Holiday!
  • March 16ACT Test on April 4
  • March 16Have a Safe Spring Break! March 17-26

The Xenobot- A New Life Form


Jordan Myers, Reporter

In a study conducted by the University of Vermont and Tufts University in Massachusetts, scientists have successfully created the world’s first living and self-healing robots using clumps of stem cells from a species of frog. Named after the African clawed frog (xenopus laevis) the Xenobots are able to move around using cilia present on their surface, navigate aquatic environment in diverse ways, heal after damage, and they have also shown their own group behaviors.

Stem cells are unspecialized cells that have the ability to develop into different cell types. The researchers scraped living stem cells from frog embryos, and left them to incubate. Then, the cells were cut and reshaped into specific “body forms” designed by a supercomputer — forms “never seen in nature,” according to a news release from the University of Vermont.

After being incubated, the cells of frog skin began to form with cells that, in another life, might have helped an amphibian’s heart beat. They’re the perfect strangers: biological entities that, up until this point, had no business being together. And yet, Levin and his colleagues have found that skin cells and heart cells can be coaxed into coalescing. Placed side by side, they will self-organize into intricate, three-dimensional mosaics of frog cells that aren’t actually frogs.

xenobot 1
A “living machine” containing frog stem cells in a new configuration designed by a computer algorithm. Parts shown in green are made up of frog skin cells, while parts in red are frog heart cells. (Kriegman, 2020)

Designed by a computer algorithm and surgically shaped by human hands, these skin-heart hybrids, each roughly the size of a grain of sand, don’t resemble anything found in nature. But the tasks they accomplish are eerily familiar. Without any external input, they can zoom around Petri dishes, push microscopic objects around, and even stitch themselves back together after being cut. Small enough to travel inside of human bodies, they are exactly (0.04 inches) wide and are able to survive weeks without food, but similar to humans, they enjoy feasting on sugar.

“In a frog embryo, cells cooperate to create a tadpole. Here, removed from that context, we see that cells can re-purpose their genetically encoded hardware, like cilia, for new functions such as locomotion. It is amazing that cells can spontaneously take on new roles and create new body plans and behaviors without long periods of evolutionary selection for those features,” said Michael Levin, Distinguished Professor of Biology and director of the Allen Discovery Center at Tufts University.

In a TED Talk, professor Levin describes not only the remarkable potential for tiny biological robots to carry out useful tasks in the environment or potentially in therapeutic applications, but he also points out what may be the most valuable benefit of this research – using the bots to understand how individual cells come together, communicate, and specialize to create a larger organism, as they do in nature to create a frog or human. It’s a new model system that can provide a foundation for regenerative medicine.



Leave a Comment
About the Contributor
Photo of Jordan Myers
Jordan Myers, Reporter

Jordan Myers is a reporter for The Paper Cut, a junior at Sahuaro High School, and has been a part of the newspaper for three years. In his time away...

Navigate Left
  • Russian Jet Strikes U.S. Drone: Was it Planned or Not?

    Headline News

    Russian Jet Strikes U.S. Drone: Was it Planned or Not?

  • Stanfords Hate Crimes

    Headline News

    Stanford’s Hate Crimes

  • view by Donnelly Dome. Mile 244 of Richardson Highway

    Headline News

    Economy or Life: Is the Willow Project Worth it?

  • Pinterest Is Being Investigated?!

    Headline News

    Pinterest Is Being Investigated?!

  • Meet the man who visited Disneyland nearly 3000 times in a row

    Headline News

    Meet the man who visited Disneyland nearly 3000 times in a row

  • Biden’s Student Loan Forgiveness Plan: What Will The Verdict Be?

    Headline News

    Biden’s Student Loan Forgiveness Plan: What Will The Verdict Be?

  • Welcome Back Baseball!

    Headline News

    Welcome Back Baseball!

  • SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA - 2023/02/09: People watch a television screen showing a news broadcast with an image of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un (L) and his daughter presumed to be named Ju-ae (R) attending a military parade held in Pyongyang to mark the 75th founding anniversary of its armed forces, at Yongsan railway station in Seoul. North Korea has staged a massive military parade in Pyongyang to mark the 75th founding anniversary of its armed forces, its state media confirmed on February 9, describing intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) on display as representing the countrys maximum nuclear attack capabilities.
Its leader Kim Jong-un attended the nighttime event, held February 8, along with his wife, Ri Sol-ju, and apparent second child, Ju-ae, according to the Norths official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA). (Photo by Kim Jae-Hwan/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

    Headline News

    Future Successor? Kim Jong-Un’s daughter

  • Sailors assigned to Explosive Ordnance Disposal Group 2 recover a high-altitude surveillance balloon off the coast of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, Feb. 5, 2023. EODGRU 2 is a critical part of the Navy Expeditionary Combat Force that clears explosive hazards to provide access to denied areas; secures the undersea domain for freedom of movement; builds and fosters relationships with trusted partners, and protects the homeland. At the direction of the President of the United States and with the full support of the Government of Canada, U.S. fighter aircraft under U.S. Northern Command authority engaged and brought down a high altitude surveillance balloon within sovereign U.S. airspace and over U.S. territorial waters Feb. 4, 2023.  Active duty, Reserve, National Guard, and civilian personnel planned and executed the operation, and partners from the U.S. Coast Guard, Federal Aviation Administration, and Federal Bureau of Investigation ensured public safety throughout the operation and recovery efforts.  (U.S. Navy Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Tyler Thompson)

    Headline News

    Several UFOs Found Flying Over the US and Canada

  • Covids Changed A Lot In the Past Three Years

    Headline News

    Covid’s Changed A Lot In the Past Three Years

Navigate Right
Activate Search
The Xenobot- A New Life Form

Comments (0)

All The Paper Cut Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *