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Engineers create ‘lifelike’ material with artificial metabolism

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posted on Apr, 18 2019 @ 12:16 PM
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Link to Published Paper

news.cornell.edu...

Note: There's a short video at the link I can't embed here worth watching.


Using what they call DASH (DNA-based Assembly and Synthesis of Hierarchical) materials, Cornell engineers constructed a DNA material with capabilities of metabolism, in addition to self-assembly and organization – three key traits of life.

“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,”

Using DASH, the Cornell engineers created a biomaterial that can autonomously emerge from its nanoscale building blocks and arrange itself – first into polymers and eventually mesoscale shapes. Starting from a 55-nucleotide base seed sequence, the DNA molecules were multiplied hundreds of thousands times, creating chains of repeating DNA a few millimeters in size. The reaction solution was then injected in a microfluidic device that provided a liquid flow of energy and the necessary building blocks for biosynthesis.

As the flow washed over the material, the DNA synthesized its own new strands, with the front end of the material growing and the tail end degrading in optimized balance. In this way, it made its own locomotion, creeping forward, against the flow, in a way similar to how slime molds move.

The locomotive ability allowed the researchers to pit sets of the material against one another in competitive races. Due to randomness in the environment, one body would eventually gain an advantage over the other, allowing one to cross a finish line first.

The programmed metabolism embedded into DNA materials is the key innovation. The DNA contains the set of instructions for metabolism and autonomous regeneration. After that, it’s on its own.

“Everything from its ability to move and compete, all those processes are self-contained. There’s no external interference,” Luo said. “Life began billions of years from perhaps just a few kinds of molecules. This might be the same.”

The material the team created can last for two cycles of synthesis and degradation before it expires. Longevity can likely be extended, according to the researchers, opening the possibility for more “generations” of the material as it self-replicates.


I'd never heard of synthetic lifelike materials before. A material made of dna that uses an artificial metabolism to power itself is a pretty cool idea. Though it seems like another one of thise things that has the potential to doom us all.

Also for some reason, it reminds me of Flubber.




posted on Apr, 18 2019 @ 12:21 PM
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Many years ago they announced the creation of small robots that could self replicate and could live by feeding on anything organic. if they put them on a tree they said they would eat leafs and make more copies of themselves.

I never heard anything more when it was announced we all thought but they said it eats "anything organic" and of course that does not sound good!!!



posted on Apr, 18 2019 @ 12:44 PM
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a reply to: dug88

It will be interesting to find out if the material evolves on it’s own in some way as the DNA is programmed to metabolise and regenerate this implies it is programmed to survive, so I would assume it would try adapting to changes in its environment.



posted on Apr, 18 2019 @ 12:49 PM
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originally posted by: surfer_soul
a reply to: dug88

It will be interesting to find out if the material evolves on it’s own in some way as the DNA is programmed to metabolise and regenerate this implies it is programmed to survive, so I would assume it would try adapting to changes in its environment.



It seems like it could potentially based on the races they were doing with them.



posted on Apr, 18 2019 @ 02:29 PM
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originally posted by: dug88

originally posted by: surfer_soul
a reply to: dug88

It will be interesting to find out if the material evolves on it’s own in some way as the DNA is programmed to metabolise and regenerate this implies it is programmed to survive, so I would assume it would try adapting to changes in its environment.



It seems like it could potentially based on the races they were doing with them.


I don't think it could because wouldn't that require it to be alive, at least more complex? More like artificial intelligence. The result of the races is probably from slight environmental differences, changes and effects that can't be made constant.

We don't even know the size of it or how far two cycles of self replication goes. It could've been microscopic and only growing a pitifully small amount of microscopic distance. The hypothetical time it might take to grow to a large enough size to be used large scale on anything from a t-shirt to an airplane is absent.
edit on 4/18/2019 by r0xor because: (no reason given)



posted on Apr, 18 2019 @ 06:07 PM
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This sounds very similar to the grey goo scenario. A non sentient self replicating device that feeds and replicates itself by disassembling biological matter.
What could go wrong?




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