Biological Computer: Stanford Researchers Discover Genetic Transistors That Turn Cells Into Computers

A recent study from Stanford University has shown how the treatment of diseases has become revolutionized through the creation of genetic receptors.

The research team found that by inserting the genetic transistors into the living cells, they could be turned on and off depending on the specific criteria. They have hopes that the transistors can be eventually constructed into living computers to tackle tasks such as locating a particular cell toxin, determining the number of times a cancerous cell has been divided and understanding the interaction between cells and administered drugs.

When the transistor concludes that the criteria have been met, it could be used in other ways such as making the cell and other cells surrounding it and destroying cancerous cells.

Head researcher at the Stanford School of Engineering Drew Endy explained, “We’re capable of placing computers into any living cell and maintain computing in areas where silicon has yet to work.”

The researchers showcased their work utilizing E. coli bacteria, which is an organism that is most often used in genetic research.

Conventional computers can use millions of miniscule transistors to help stem the flow of electrons. Logic gate, multiple transistors that work in tandem, will serve as the basis for all computations run by computers worldwide.

The biological transistors, which the researchers have labeled “transcriptors,” control the flow of RNA proteins using enzymes. This is similar to the way a computer would select silicon transistors to curtail electron flow.

It’s a great way for humans to rethink their views on the human body. It can also be used to educate others on a host of other living systems such as microbes and plants to better monitor the environment.

Extreme Tech reports:

In addition to the use of logic gates, you also need to think about data storage and a way to connect the various transcriptors in order for them to operate together. Many research groups have found a successful way to store data in DNA. Stanford has also implemented a brilliant plan for using the M13 virus to channel DNA strands between cells. In the end, it’s safe to say that the solid basis for a biological computer has now been formed.

Highly functional biological computers may not be imminent, but progress has been made through the biological sensors, and the way they measure and record cell changes. The contributions Stanford has made should pave the path for other research facilities such as Harvard’s Wyss Institute to start on the first biological computer. Many of their findings are listed under a public domain, making it easy for other scientists to build off these discoveries.

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