Until recently technology and biology were two separate entities. However, within the last few years, there has been more research than ever when it comes to technology and the human body working together.
In particular, the circuit board and living cells and how they are more similar than once thought.
Both are capable of holding and processing an incredible amount of information, and now biologists have come up with a way to incorporate them together. Researchers at the University of Washington have recently published a study where they have created a new technique to turn living cells into computers.
As explained in the journal Nature Communications, biologists installed the organic equivalent of the digital logic gates used in electronics as a way to manually code instructions to the cell. The goal is that a particular input would create a specific output.
While typical circuit boards are assembled by machines and have a standard turnaround time of five days or less, these organic processors are created by hand using DNA technology and yeast cells.
Within their experiment, the scientists build the largest organic circuit board in the world and created seven logic gates. These gates consisted of a gene with three programmable portions of DNA –two of the chunks acted as inputs, the third an output receiver. Researchers also created specialized programmable molecular gatekeepers whose job was to specifically determine if a particular gate will open to receptors or not.
When the gates are active and open, a signal is sent to deactivate another gate within the circuit, allowing scientists to wire together gates to create their own programs in the cell.
This discovery is a large step forward for the world of synthetic biology, as the opportunities are really endless in what scientists will be able to create with this impressive technology. Electrical engineering professor Eric Klavins explained to Seeker some different possibilities:
“Cells could be reprogrammed to undergo new developmental pathways, to regrow organs, or to develop entirely new ones. In such developing tissues, cells have to make complex digital decisions about what genes to express and when, and our technology could be used to control that process.”
Additionally, this technology could be used to make biofuels.
However, the world of organic circuit boards is slowly evolving, so the world will have to wait to see what else is to be discovered when it comes to this impressive technology!