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Image credit: Chinnasorn Pangcharoen via Getty Images

Robots could wear flesh to help form transplants

It's not as creepy as it sounds. Really. We promise.
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Chinnasorn Pangcharoen via Getty Images

Right now, you have to grow human transplants in a stationary environment. That's more than a little dangerous when they could buckle under the stresses of a real body. Oxford University may have a clever (if slightly ghastly) solution to that problem: have robots wear the tissue first. If you grow muscles on humanoid robots, the movement and overall shape of those machines would lead to grafts and transplants that are ready for serious strain.

Naturally, this robotic conditioning would be most useful for higher-quality transplants. You could even personalize transplants by modifying the robot to reflect a patient's anatomy. However, the Oxford team sees other uses. It could reduce the use of animal testing in pre-clinical trials, and could even represent a step toward "biohybrid humanoids" that combine real tissue with mechanical systems. We're not so sure people are looking forward to that last part (it sounds like the background for a Terminator movie), but the discovery is great news overall for burn victims and others who need transplants. Instead of waiting weeks for replacements to grow on their own bodies, they could have doctors print transplants that get a robotic shakedown in a much shorter time.

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