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article imageE.coli bacteria programmed as 'logic gates'

By Paul Wallis     Dec 9, 2010 in Science
Scientists at UCSF School of Pharmacy's Department of Pharmaceutical Chemistry have created “logic gates”, primary computer functions using E.coli bacteria gene programming. This is a bit like growing a Ferrari out of a helpful cow.
E.Coli can be a very dangerous thing. Some strains are lethal. The news that they’ve been programmed as computational agents, able to communicate with each other, puts a new light on some very basic assumptions about biology and computers. The concept of using DNA for mechanical and electronic processes isn’t new, but this is a quantum leap, or several, from early work in this area.
Christopher A. Voigt, PhD, a synthetic biologist and associate professor at UCSF is the senior author of the paper and spokesperson for the project.
Science Daily quotes Voigt:
"Here, we've taken a colony of bacteria that are receiving two chemical signals from their neighbors, and have created the same logic gates that form the basis of silicon computing."
This is the heart of the technology, and it’s based on absolutely fundamental science.
Another quote:
"...The gate controls the release and sensing of a chemical signal, which allows the gates to be connected among bacteria much the way electrical gates would be on a circuit board."
That sentence describes virtually every working industrial process on Earth. Voigt may be seriously underestimating the achievement. It could be invaluable in endless ways. The ability to effectively program genes in this way is likely to be the foundation of a lot of very productive science.
Self repairing materials and self assembling nanoproducts, for example, can do only so much. Add a form of working chemical programming, and you’ve got a very different set of possibilities, including much more complex processes. Voigt and friends may have discovered the basis of the “stem cells” of the technological future.
More about Coli, Christopher voigt, Bacteria
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