Artificial lifelike machines that can grow, move itself, eat and race competitively

What you are reading is right and it’s not science fiction Researchers at Cornell University have made what they call artificial lifelike machines using synthetic DNA that can move itself, grow, develop, waste resources, and ultimately die.

Now, before you start putting your convicting hats and questioning the ethics of the researchers, they quickly emphasize that their creations are not truly “living” organisms. “We are presenting a brand new concept of natural material that triggers its own artificial metabolism,” writes Dan Luo, a professor of biological engineers at Cornell. “We do not create something alive, but we create materials that are much more alive than they’ve ever seen.”

Luo and his team developed a biomaterial that was placed into a nanoscale scaffolding. The material then autonomously emerged to “arrange itself – first into polymers and eventually mesoscale shapes.” Acting much like slime molds, the biomaterial was able to move under its own power, moving forward against a liquid flow of energy.

Not surprisingly, the researchers pitted these new bio machines against one another in competitive races – because, why not? Given the self-locomotive properties of each and the total randomness of the environments (and of the machines themselves), the team says that the race outcomes and eventual winners were always dynamic.

Besides their racing antics and ability to sustain themselves, the Cornell researchers also witnessed their new machines grow, decay and eventual die (after two cycles of synthesis) like true living organisms.

“The designs are still primitive, but they showed a new route to create dynamic machines from biomolecules,” added Shogo Hamada, a research associate from the Luo lab. “We are at a first step of building lifelike robots by artificial metabolism.

“Ultimately, the system may lead to lifelike self-reproducing machines.”

Luo and his team are just getting started with these artificial lifelike machines, and hope to eventually advance their research to the point where this biomaterial can be used as biosensors in the medical field.

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