Scientists want to cover robots in muscle fibers and tissues so that resemble human beings
If all goes well, we could very soon see robots being made with human flesh. Before you freak out, the purpose of the robot-dress up is to help those people who need tissue transplants.
Two University of Oxford biomedical researchers, Pierre-Alexis Mouthuy and Professor Andrew Carr, writing in Science Robotics, argue that moving humanoid robots could help create muscle and tendon grafts that actually work.
The researchers pointed to existing robots, including the Eccerobot, a plastic machine with ‘human’ bones, tendons and skin, to explain how future bots will grow real tissue.
They said: “Over the past decade, exciting progress has been made in the development of humanoid robots. In particular, musculoskeletal humanoids (such as Kenshiro and Eccerobot) were developed to interact with humans in a safer and more natural way. They aim to closely replicate the detailed anatomy of the human musculoskeletal system including muscles, tendons, and bones. We suggest that musculoskeletal robots may assist in the growth of musculoskeletal tissue grafts for tissue transplant applications.”
Adding further, they said, “With their structures activated by artificial muscles, musculoskeletal humanoids have the ability to mimic more accurately the multiple degrees of freedom and the normal range of forces observed in human joints.
“As a result, it is not surprising that they offer new opportunities in science and medicine”.
Today, sheets of cells are grown in stagnant tanks, but these “fail to mimic the real mechanical environment for cells,” say the scientists.
As a result, these tissues are often too weak to be effective – especially for “bone-tendon-muscle grafts… because failure during healing often occurs at the interface between tissues”.
Instead, we need a robot with “structures, dimensions, and mechanics similar to those of the human body”.
As tissue grows on the robot, it would receive the same stresses as it would face on a real human, creating stronger and healthier tissue for harvesting.
“It is now both technically possible and scientifically pertinent to explore in greater detail the potential of humanoids as tools for regenerative medicine,” conclude the researchers.
What’s more this would be a step towards “biohybrid humanoids” – bots of the future whose human muscles, tendons, and skin can self-repair.