Thursday 02 October, 2014

Biological computers come closer to reality

Published On: Wed, Oct 19th, 2011 | Computer Science | By BioNews

Scientists have claimed that they can build some of the basic components for digital devices out of bacteria and DNA, suggesting a new generation of biological computing devices.

The researchers, from Imperial College London, have demonstrated that they can build logic gates, which are used for processing information in devices such as computers and microprocessors, out of harmless gut bacteria and DNA.

These are the most advanced biological logic gates ever created by scientists.

“Logic gates are the fundamental building blocks in silicon circuitry that our entire digital age is based on,” said professor Richard Kitney, co-author of study from the Centre for Synthetic Biology and Innovation and the Department of Bioengineering at Imperial College London.

“Without them, we could not process digital information. Now that we have demonstrated that we can replicate these parts using bacteria and DNA, we hope that our work could lead to a new generation of biological processors, whose applications in information processing could be as important as their electronic equivalents,” he added.

Although still a long way off, the team suggest that these biological logic gates could one day form the building blocks in microscopic biological computers.

The scientists constructed a type of logic gate called an “AND Gate” from bacteria called Escherichia coli (E.Coli), which is normally found in the lower intestine.

The team altered the E.Coli with modified DNA, which reprogrammed it to perform the same switching on and off process as its electronic equivalent when stimulated by chemicals.

The researchers were also able to demonstrate that the biological logic gates could be connected together to form more complex components in a similar way that electronic components are made.

In another experiment, the researchers created a “NOT gate” and combined it with the AND gate to produce the more complex “NAND gate”.

The next stage of the research will see the team trying to develop more complex circuitry that comprises multiple logic gates.

The study has been published in the journal Nature Communications.

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