For those tired of the parade of robotics
Here’s a robot that might elicit a grain of thanks even from those who would just as soon never read another article about AI and robotic development.
It is a Chain-Smoking Robot. Not just thankful for the humane side of not forcing rats to smoke, but for the developmental side that discovers the mysteries of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, for humans forced to smoke from their youth.
The idea is very simple. The robot is loaded with up to 12 cigarettes in a circular smoker. The robot knows to light the cigarettes using a typical car cigarette lighter. The machine – the robot – is programmed to smoke the cigarettes with “customizable intensities and frequencies.”
But to what purpose? The robot hasn’t got a human system. Neither have rats, by the way. Rats don’t breathe like humans and their immune response to smoke isn’t up to the same level as that of a human. Rats breathe through their noses only. Their immune response doesn’t fight as does that of a human.
What about Rob?
In any case, what of the robot? Has he got a throat and a nose? Does he have an immune system? No, to both questions. But this Chain-Smoking Robot does have a “lung on a chip, which mimics a human airway.” There are living lung cells, compolete with mucus and “hairlike structures called cilia that ferry the mucus around.” The smoke is channeled here.
For comparitive information there can be a bank of lung cells from a patient with pulmonary disease and another from a healthy patient. Observing the differences to cells subjected to heavy chain-smoking provides research insight. One recent result was a confirmation of a scientific hunch.
“First of all, we were able to show that the chips that were lined by cells from COPD patients showed a much bigger inflammatory response to the cigarette smoke exposure than normal, which is consistent with cigarette exposure bringing COPD patients to the emergency room.” Donald Ingber, one of the creators of the robot, offered this insight.
A second insight has to do with the behavior of the cilia. The work of the cilia is to move in an organized cleansing motion to remove contaminants. “The cigarette smoke essentially interferes with their oriented cleansing motion, so you get distorted motion.” Ingber opens the door for treatment of the cilia that would help them to perform their natural function even under the presence of cigarette smoke.
What do you think? Reason to appreciate the work of a robot? A chain-smoking robot?
May your Thanksgiving be smoke-free. And robot free!