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Scientists program bacteria to act like computers

Scientists program bacteria to act like computers

Posting in Design

Christopher Voigt isn't looking to replace your laptop with a biological computing system. But he is trying to use bacteria to program cells, so they can act like tiny computers.

Christopher Voigt isn’t looking to replace your laptop with a biological computing system. But he is trying to use bacteria to program cells, so they can act like miniature computers.

Voigt, a synthetic biologist at the University of California, San Francisco manipulated bacteria so it can allow cells to talk to each other and compute things.

The synthetic biologist thinks it's only natural to take advantage of what biology does best. While your laptop runs its computations based on 1s and 0s, other things like bacteria can perform computations too.

The researcher made logic gates out of genes, which are important in computing operations. Then he inserted  the genes into bacteria. This allowed the bacteria to understand chemical signals from its neighbors. The gates control the signals just like gates in circuit boards, according to the researchers.

The research was published in Nature. According to the paper:

This work helps elucidate the design rules by which simple logic can be harnessed to produce diverse and complex calculations by rewiring communication between cells.

In the future, biological computing could be used in drug production, agriculture, and in the design of industrial chemicals.

“This field will be transformative in how we harness biology for biomedical advances,” UCSF Mary Anne Koda-Kimble said in a statement.

Image what could happen if you could program cells to do what you want – especially if there was a special programming language that could tell the cells what to do. Now, do you see any downsides to this with hacking and all?

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Boonsri Dickinson

Contributing Editor

Contributing Editor Boonsri Dickinson is a freelance journalist based in San Francisco. She has written for Discover, The Huffington Post, Forbes, Nature Biotech, Technewsdaily.com, Techstartups.com and AOL. She's currently a reporter for Business Insider. She holds degrees from the University of Florida and the University of Colorado at Boulder. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure