Skip to main content

Scientists at Northwestern have built a robot with its own menstrual cycle

evatar robot menstrual cycle 1
Image used with permission by copyright holder
A robot with a menstrual cycle sounds like something out of Donna Haraway’s cyborg feminist manifesto.

In fact, it’s a new research project coming out of Northwestern University, where scientists recreated a female reproductive system in a box. Called Evatar, it goes one step further than the previous “organ on a chip” concepts used to test specific organ responses to certain drugs by creating an entire bodily system. That includes living tissues from a mouse ovary, as well as those from a human uterus, cervix, vagina, fallopian tubes, and liver — all of which communicate with one another using a state-of-the-art microfluidic platform.

“This system runs for a period of 28 days, which is the length of a woman’s menstrual cycle,” Julie Kim, Susy Y. Hung Associate Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Northwestern, told Digital Trends. “The ovary provides human menstrual cycle level hormones — 14 days of estrogen, ovulation and 14 days of progesterone — that then stimulates the fallopian tube, uterus, cervix and liver. This is the world’s first multi-organ system in a dish that remains functional for a full menstrual cycle.”

Compared with the male-centric drug testing of previous decades, Evatar is designed to give scientists a better understanding of the way in which various medicines and/or toxins affect women. This means testing aspects of drugs which may not affect men, such as whether they will affect ovarian function.

As Kim noted, “There are well-established sex differences of drug responses that are usually not known until women take the drug and experience adverse effects.”

Right now, the project has reached the end of its first phase. Next up, the team wants to work on incorporating models of diseases that affect the female reproductive tract, such as uterine fibroids, endometriosis, and cancer.

“As I was responsible for the uterus portion of Evatar, I would like to add other important components of the lining of the uterus such as blood vessels and immune cells that work in concert with the cell types currently in our system,” Kim said. “This would allow us to potentially study complex processes such as menstruation and test compounds for disorders including heavy uterine bleeding that affect women. Also, we are interested in generating specific cells of the reproductive tract from stem cells in order to provide a system that is more personalized.”

And men shouldn’t get too worried, either, as a male version of Evatar — called Adatar — is also on the way. consisting of cells from the male reproductive tract.

“So lots more to do,” Kim said.

Editors' Recommendations

Luke Dormehl
I'm a UK-based tech writer covering Cool Tech at Digital Trends. I've also written for Fast Company, Wired, the Guardian…
Digital Trends’ Top Tech of CES 2023 Awards
Best of CES 2023 Awards Our Top Tech from the Show Feature

Let there be no doubt: CES isn’t just alive in 2023; it’s thriving. Take one glance at the taxi gridlock outside the Las Vegas Convention Center and it’s evident that two quiet COVID years didn’t kill the world’s desire for an overcrowded in-person tech extravaganza -- they just built up a ravenous demand.

From VR to AI, eVTOLs and QD-OLED, the acronyms were flying and fresh technologies populated every corner of the show floor, and even the parking lot. So naturally, we poked, prodded, and tried on everything we could. They weren’t all revolutionary. But they didn’t have to be. We’ve watched enough waves of “game-changing” technologies that never quite arrive to know that sometimes it’s the little tweaks that really count.

Read more
Digital Trends’ Tech For Change CES 2023 Awards
Digital Trends CES 2023 Tech For Change Award Winners Feature

CES is more than just a neon-drenched show-and-tell session for the world’s biggest tech manufacturers. More and more, it’s also a place where companies showcase innovations that could truly make the world a better place — and at CES 2023, this type of tech was on full display. We saw everything from accessibility-minded PS5 controllers to pedal-powered smart desks. But of all the amazing innovations on display this year, these three impressed us the most:

Samsung's Relumino Mode
Across the globe, roughly 300 million people suffer from moderate to severe vision loss, and generally speaking, most TVs don’t take that into account. So in an effort to make television more accessible and enjoyable for those millions of people suffering from impaired vision, Samsung is adding a new picture mode to many of its new TVs.
[CES 2023] Relumino Mode: Innovation for every need | Samsung
Relumino Mode, as it’s called, works by adding a bunch of different visual filters to the picture simultaneously. Outlines of people and objects on screen are highlighted, the contrast and brightness of the overall picture are cranked up, and extra sharpness is applied to everything. The resulting video would likely look strange to people with normal vision, but for folks with low vision, it should look clearer and closer to "normal" than it otherwise would.
Excitingly, since Relumino Mode is ultimately just a clever software trick, this technology could theoretically be pushed out via a software update and installed on millions of existing Samsung TVs -- not just new and recently purchased ones.

Read more
AI turned Breaking Bad into an anime — and it’s terrifying
Split image of Breaking Bad anime characters.

These days, it seems like there's nothing AI programs can't do. Thanks to advancements in artificial intelligence, deepfakes have done digital "face-offs" with Hollywood celebrities in films and TV shows, VFX artists can de-age actors almost instantly, and ChatGPT has learned how to write big-budget screenplays in the blink of an eye. Pretty soon, AI will probably decide who wins at the Oscars.

Within the past year, AI has also been used to generate beautiful works of art in seconds, creating a viral new trend and causing a boon for fan artists everywhere. TikTok user @cyborgism recently broke the internet by posting a clip featuring many AI-generated pictures of Breaking Bad. The theme here is that the characters are depicted as anime characters straight out of the 1980s, and the result is concerning to say the least. Depending on your viewpoint, Breaking Bad AI (my unofficial name for it) shows how technology can either threaten the integrity of original works of art or nurture artistic expression.
What if AI created Breaking Bad as a 1980s anime?
Playing over Metro Boomin's rap remix of the famous "I am the one who knocks" monologue, the video features images of the cast that range from shockingly realistic to full-on exaggerated. The clip currently has over 65,000 likes on TikTok alone, and many other users have shared their thoughts on the art. One user wrote, "Regardless of the repercussions on the entertainment industry, I can't wait for AI to be advanced enough to animate the whole show like this."

Read more