Scientists create transistor-like biological device
Stanford researchers demonstrate ‘transcriptors’ inside E coli bacteria, in advance in synthetic biology
Scientists have used biological tissue to recreate one of the main components of a modern computer inside living cells.
The biological device behaves like a transistor, one of the tiny switches that are etched on to microchips in the billions to perform computer calculations.
The researchers demonstrated the device inside E coli bacteria, one of the most common bugs used in genetic engineering. The work marks one of the latest advances in the growing field of synthetic biology, which recasts biology as a toolset for engineers.
Writing in the journal Science, researchers at Stanford University explain how their biological transistors could be connected together inside living cells to perform computing jobs such as controlling how genes are expressed in an organism.
Led by Drew Endy, a pioneer in the field, the team showed that different arrangements of biological transistors worked like logic gates, which take input signals and process them into different outputs. In keeping with their heritage, Endy calls these arrangements Boolean Integrase Logic (BIL) gates.
Normal transistors control the flow of electrons along metal wires. In the biological device, dubbed a “transcriptor”, the wire is a strand of DNA and the electrons are replaced by an enzyme. A modern computer chip holds several billion transistors that are wired together to carry out calculations. The same can be achieved with transcriptors, each of which is built from about 150 letters of the genetic code. (via Scientists create transistor-like biological device | Science | The Guardian)
There are several fascinating things about this article. First, I misread “transistors” as “translators” so my first thought was “Cool, Farscape‘s translator microbes could be real!”
But organic computers are equally if not more fascinating! I can think of lots of applications, especially in medicine.
But I also noticed they’re using E.coli which, if I’m not mistaken, is a deadly organism that causes food poisoning. Be careful out there guys!