Cornell Scientists Create, “Living’ Machines That Eat, Grow, And Evolve”

The machines have life-like capabilities, but are not alive.

According to The Next Web, Cornell University scientists have created DNA-based machines with some human-like capabilities, such as locomotion, eating for energy, growing, evolving, and decaying. Like humans, the machines eventually die.

College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Cornell professor Dan Luo, who teaches biological and environmental engineering, explains that although the machine’s description sounds like it is alive, it is not.

“We are introducing a brand-new, lifelike material concept powered by its very own artificial metabolism. We are not making something that’s alive, but we are creating materials that are much more lifelike than have ever been seen before.”

Researchers say the machines will be akin to biologically complex organisms like mold. “Here, we report a bottom-up construction of dynamic biomaterials powered by artificial metabolism, representing a combination of irreversible biosynthesis and dissipative assembly processes. An emergent locomotion behavior resembling a slime mold was programmed with this material by using an abstract design model similar to mechanical systems.”

The paper continues: "An emergent racing behavior of two locomotive bodies was achieved by expanding the program. Other applications, including pathogen detection and hybrid nanomaterials, illustrated further potential use of this material. Dynamic biomaterials powered by artificial metabolism could provide a previously unexplored route to realize “artificial” biological systems with regenerating and self-sustaining characteristics.”

In short, the scientists grew machines with DNA-based bio-material. The machines were observed metabolizing resources for energy, decaying, and growing. They were then programmed to race each other.

The paper’s lead author, Shogo Hamada, said “ultimately, the system may lead to lifelike self-reproducing machines.”

To learn more, the research paper can be read here.

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