Programming bacteria to act like mini computers

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London, Dec 9 (ANI): A team of researchers at UCSF has engineered E. coli with the key molecular circuitry that will enable genetic engineers to program cells to behave like computers.

The work builds into cells the same logic gates found in electronic computers and creates a method to create circuits by "rewiring" communications between cells.

This system can be harnessed to turn cells into miniature computers.

That, in turn, will enable cells to be programmed with more intricate functions for a variety of purposes, including agriculture and the production of pharmaceuticals, materials and industrial chemicals, according to Christopher A. Voigt.

The most common electronic computers apply logic operations to streams of 1's and 0's to produce more complex functions, which in turn, create software.

"Any substrate can act like a computer, including gears, pipes of water, and cells," Voigt said.

"Here, we've taken a colony of bacteria that are receiving two chemical signals from their neighbours, and have created the same logic gates that form the basis of silicon computing," he added.

"The purpose of programming cells is not to have them overtake electronic computers. Rather, it is to be able to access all of the things that biology can do in a reliable, programmable way."

The study will appear in an upcoming issue of Nature. (ANI)

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