Caenorhabditis elegans is a tiny roundworm that has made a huge impact on science.
It is a very simple animal, which makes it really easy to study. A lot of what we know about genetics, development, and brain activity has only been possible because of this amazing animal.
While an adult human body contains over 37 trillion cells, this worm only has exactly 1031. The genome of C. elegans stretches on for 100 million base pairs whereas humans have 3 billion, and the worm's brain operates with 302 neurons, while we have about 86 billion.
Because of the simplicity of its brain, scientists now have a good understanding of C. elegans' connectome, which is the map of how all of the neurons are connected and communicate with one another. A group of researchers were able to take the worm's connectome and turn it into a computer program.
Based on certain stimuli, the computer program is able to create a response, just the same way neurons would be activated in the brain.
The folks over at the Open Worm Project have decided to take this one step further and actually upload a C. elegans connectome into a LEGO robot. The robot is covered in a series of sensors, which stand in as the sensory organs that the worm would have to gain information about the environment.
When the robot is moving along and comes up against an obstacle, the software is able to redirect the robot in precisely the same manner that the worm would avoid the same obstacle.
As amazing as the robot's abilities currently are, the research is actually pretty new. As time goes on and the technology improves, it will be able to complete many more tasks and better replicate the worm's ability to move, and locate food. Ultimately, the goal is to built a robot that completely replicates the worm's body, down to synthetic muscles put into the correct location.
Check out the robot in action here: