Meet the xenobots: Researchers create living, programmable robots from frog stem cells


That’s quite the headline right?

Imagine our disbelief in the newsroom when we found this story, which is apparently 100% true but also straight out of science fiction.

Published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers from the University of Vermont and Tufts University revealed to the world the xenobot: tiny living robots created from frog stem cells.

The researchers used a supercomputer to design the new life-forms, using skin and heart cells from the African Clawed Frog.

Xenobots are less than a millimeter wide and are being called “living, programmable organisms” by their creators.

So not quite a living animal (because they’re lacking nervous systems) and not quite a traditional robot. Robots by definition are machines capable of carrying out a series of actions automatically, especially if they are programmable by a computer.

Researchers believe the xenobots could be used to clean up radioactive waste, collect microplastics from the oceans, carry medicine inside human bodies, or even travel into arteries to scrape out plaque.

Kind of freaky, right?

The researchers say xenobots do not carry the same risks as traditional robots, which can break down over time, harming the environment and people’s health.

Now, whether xenobots carry the same risk of becoming a self-aware AI, hellbent on the destruction of humankind, unfortunately, did not come up in the publication. Being a living organism, however, means it does not have a motherboard or microchip or anything that could lead us to believe xenobots are capable of Terminator-like world domination.

But for those of us who have read Michael Crichton’s Prey, we’re watching you xenobots.