The research is being conducted by the University of Vermont, Tufts University and Harvard University’s Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering. After bringing frog cells together in clumps, spheres formed within five days that were able to move with the help of hairs. The xenobots worked together in a swarm that pushed together other loose cells in the dish, from which new bots emerged. The most effective were C-shaped ‘Pacman’-like xenobots.
This method of reproduction, according to evolutionary engineer Josh Bongard, is ‘a previously unknown way for life to replicate itself’. The method is not very future-proof, by the way. Every next generation is slightly smaller than their parents. After a few generations, the xenobots die out.
Image: Douglas Blackiston and Sam Kriegman/Wyss Institute