It's not quite Skynet, but scientists have created "lively" machines seem like something straight out of a sci-fi movie. Researchers from Cornell University have crafted what they call artificial machines using synthetic DNA that can move on their own, grow, evolve, consume resources and eventually.
Now before you start putting on your judgmental hats and questioning the ethics of the researchers, they are quick to point out that their creations are not "living" organisms. "We are introducing a brand-new, lifelike material concept powered by its very own artificial metabolism," writes Dan Luo, who serves as a professor of biological and environmental engineer at Cornell. "We are not making something that is alive, but we are creating materials that are much better than ever before before."
Luo and his team developed a biomaterial that was placed into a nanoscale scaffolding. The material then autonomously emerged to "arrange itself ̵
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 (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. "" At first step of building lifelike robots by artificial metabolism.
"Ultimately, the system may lead to natural self-reproducing machines."
Luo and his team are just getting started with these machines, and hope to eventually advance their research to the point where this biomaterial can be used as biosensors in the medical field.