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Meet xenobots, robots that can...


Meet xenobots, robots that can reproduce

Meet the xenobots
The Silicon Review
06 December, 2023

Life has to reproduce in order to survive. Organisms have developed a variety of methods for self-replication over billions of years, ranging from sexual mammals to invading viruses to budding plants.

The first-ever self-replicating living robots have been made possible by scientists at the University of Vermont, Tufts University, and Harvard University's Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering, who has discovered a completely new method of biological reproduction.

These computer-designed and manually assembled organisms can swim out into their tiny dish, find single cells, gather hundreds of them together, and assemble "baby" Xenobots inside their Pac-Man-shaped "mouth"; these Xenobots, a few days later, grow into new Xenobots that look and move just like themselves, according to the same team that built the first Living.

These new Xenobots can then venture out, locate cells, and create duplicates of themselves. Once more and once more. Come let’s learn how xenobots reshape our understanding of genetics.

What are xenobots used for?

Meet xenobots, robots that can reproduce

Diving into the strange world of xenobots, we know that xenobots can be programmed and therefore, a plethora of opportunities are forthcoming. Because xenobots are made of stem cells, their capabilities are determined by their design, which makes them extremely versatile for a variety of uses. As such, Xenobots are redefining biotechnology.

  • Healthcare

Even though xenobots currently have simple behaviors, they are still developing. In the future, it is hoped that they will be incorporated into the human body for regenerative or targeted treatment. 

Furthermore, unlike typical metal or synthetic medical equipment, they are composed of living tissue that will eventually disintegrate. They are especially safe for humans to use because of this. They may also be utilized to improve internal drug delivery because they may endure for weeks in watery settings.

  • Cleaning up our environment

Researchers came to the conclusion that biological robots could ultimately be taught to target microplastics and help with the cleanup of the 50–75 trillion particles of plastic that are fouling the ocean, inspired by the xenobots' collective corralling abilities. The same technique can be used to detect and get rid of radioactive substances found in the environment, such as nuclear waste, or it can be used to monitor and maintain ecosystems using xenobots. The ability of xenobots to adapt to organic settings without contaminating them is crucial.

  • Producing more xenobots

These living robots can create new xenobots by clumping together loose cells, as scientists have discovered. This is how xenobots reshape our understanding of genetics.

  • Biological robots with autonomy 

It is hoped that this study will progress to the point where xenobots can function on their own without assistance from humans. They do, however, come with hazards and ethical dilemmas that should be taken into account, just like any biological innovation.

How do xenobots reproduce?

Meet xenobots, robots that can reproduce

Xenobots are the first robots made from living cells. Not only can xenobots carry out basic duties, but they can also duplicate themselves. In a follow-up study released in 2020, the same research team revealed that the living robots would cooperate to create baby xenobots by spontaneously gathering hundreds of loose, single cells thrown into the petri dish, which was first provided as feedstock. 

Diving into the strange world of xenobots, parent xenobots use a corralling motion to push hundreds of individual stem cells into a pile while swimming about on hair-like cilia. The trove of cells is compacted and formed into progeny over a period of roughly five days, after which they are expelled from the parents' wedge-shaped "mouths." The following generation will change into a fully functional xenobot, which will have the ability to make more copies, and so on.

This kind of reproduction, known as kinematic self-replication, has never been seen before, according to researchers. In fact, it wasn't even considered feasible because this process has only been observed at the molecular level and only in multicellular animals. This is also one of the ways Xenobots are redefining biotechnology.

How can xenobots be programmed?

Xenobots are the first robots made from living cells. The first step in the entire procedure is to separate the embryonic cells from the frog's egg. Two of the many intriguing characteristics of the cells are pertinent to our work. First of all, these cells adhere to one another. They will come together into a ball if you leave a cluster of them on a culture plate. They will even adhere to one another and create a ball of cells if you completely separate them and leave a collection of them in culture.

And it is sufficient to initiate motion throughout the entire ball of cells; for ease of reference, we will refer to these as mobile balls of cells, or MBCs. An MBC can travel in a circle in the culture dish for up to two weeks without running out of energy if there are no obstructions. The "living robots" are these.

The novel aspect is that a group of separated cells was added to the plate containing the MBCs by the researchers. Additionally, as the MBCs revolved, they formed a cell cluster at the center of the circle they traced (imagine the mobile ball of cells as a donut, with the cells forming a pile in the hole). Additionally, a new cluster would start to form from these free cells because they naturally self-adhere.

The new clusters were too small to be of any use on their own. However, they might be taken off of this plate and put on a fresh one that has a lot of extra cells. By absorbing some of these extra cells, the little clusters would expand and eventually get to the point where they could move as well.

How long do xenobots live?

Meet xenobots, robots that can reproduce

A xenobot, which consumes the tiny yolk platelets that fill each of its cells and would typically support embryonic development, barely has a week or so to live. Even after being ripped nearly in half, the creature may recover from damage since live cells make up its structure.

The ramifications of swift technical advancement and intricate biological engineering are a source of concern for many. In order for humanity to endure into the future, we must get a deeper comprehension of how intricate characteristics somehow arise from basic principles. A large portion of science is concerned with regulating fundamental laws. Furthermore, we must comprehend the high-level regulations.

Future societies will therefore need to develop a deeper comprehension of systems with extremely complex outcomes.


Entrepreneurship in science requires novel ideas. This is not possible without discovering new information, procedures, and unanticipated outcomes. It's an essential component of Xenobot research that will enable advancements in the field.

Basically, this new kind of robot is still in the early stages of development, so we should be cautious about what it can accomplish. We've come a long way in deep tech and scientific entrepreneurship in recent years, and xenobots may usher in a new age. When more discoveries are uncovered, deep tech investors would be wise to keep an eye on xenobots, since they have the potential to revolutionize the fields of medical care, ocean cleanup, and robotics.


  • What do xenobots eat?

The tiny yolk platelets that make up each of a xenobot's cells are what normally drive the development of an embryo.

  • How long can xenobots live?

The lifespan of a xenobot is merely a week.

  • What is the future of xenobots?

In the future, xenobots may prove to be an invaluable asset in the fight against cancer. Perhaps in the future, "biobots" created from the patient's own cells will be able to locate and eliminate cancer cells or target the damaged cells directly with immunotherapy.

  • What kills xenobots?

The delicate bots can be eliminated with as little as a small addition of copper to their meal or a simple change in the water's sodium content.