Scientists in the United States claim to have created zombie robots from reanimated frog cells, giving rise to a living organism never seen or created before which can perform important tasks while healing itself.
He added that the "xenobots" could be used for implementing a whole array of tasks, including "searching out nasty compounds or radioactive contamination, gathering micro-plastic in the oceans, [and] travelling in arteries to scrape out plaque".
They found that the skin cells formed a more passive architecture, while the once-random contractions of heart muscle cells were put to work creating ordered forward motion, allowing the robots to move on their own.
Such tiny robots could "heal" themselves when damaged, avoiding the need for hard maintenance and fix, and when they've completed their job they can simply break down organically.
Living organisms have often been manipulated by humans in the past, right down to their DNA code, but this is the first time that biological machines have been built from scratch. "It's a step toward using computer-designed organisms for intelligent drug delivery", said Joshua Bongard, a computer scientist at the University of Vermont.
The scientists developed a complex algorithm which could selflearn and evolve to create thousands of candidate designs for the new lifeforms.
Based on the blueprints, a team of biologists from Tufts University, Massachusetts, then assembled the cells into living bots, just 1mm wide.
They gathered stem cells from the embryos of African frogs and used tiny forceps and a miniature electric knife to cut and join the cells under a microscope into a close approximation of the designs specified by the computer. These organisms were able to explore their watery environment for days or weeks, powered only by embryonic energy stores.
Later tests showed that groups of xenobots would move around in circles, pushing pellets into a central location - spontaneously and collectively.