Development of Virtual Embryos with Emergent Self-Repair

Tim Andersen, Richard Newman, Tim Otter

We have constructed a computational platform that incorporates principles of biological development and primitives derived from cell biology into a rule-based architecture. When coupled to an evolutionary search, this platform can evolve 3-dimensional embryos with robustness to damage and high capacity for self-repair, even though repair is not explicitly encoded or part of the fitness criteria. One such embryo, a 117-cell cube, achieves this robustness through cell signaling and gene regulatory networks (SGRNs) that curtail cell division when the embryo is intact and support replacement of lost cells when damage shifts the balance between growth and repression. These results demonstrate that relatively simple SGRN architectures can generate complex and robust emergent properties.

Subjects: 1.2 Artificial Life; 8. Enabling Technologies

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