Science Fiction Dictionary
A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z

 

Logic Gates Built Inside Living Cells

Caltech scientists announced that they had succeeded in building synthetic RNA logic gates inside living cells that actually sense molecules inside the cell.

Several RNA sequences have been identified that bind small molecules, like the drug tetracycline. The authors inserted these into the extended lobes, such that the drug controlled the folding of the RNA. When tetracycline is present, the RNA would fold so that there was no active ribozyme. Remove the tetracycline, and the molecule would reshuffle so that the ribozyme became active.

The end result is that the drug acts as a switch, turning the ribozyme on and off. Making each of the two lobes sensitive to a different drug even created a biological AND switch; both drugs need to be present for an active ribozyme. But a ribozyme isn't necessarily easy to detect, so the authors made it obvious: they inserted their logic gates into a gene that encodes a messenger RNA that produces the Green Fluorescent protein (the protein that recently won folks a Nobel Prize). Now, when the ribozyme is active, the messenger RNA gets broken up and no GFP is made; otherwise, the cells glow green.

This setup allowed the creation of an OR logic system as well.


(Signal Integration Schemes)

This advance could lead to a wide range of applications, since the method would work just as well inside the cells of mammals. Biocomputers in a human bloodstream could control "smart drugs" that activate only under particular circumstances. Sensor cells could be programmed to detect the precursors of diseases like cancer, and then "light up" to alert health care professionals.

SF writer Greg Bear wrote about this idea in his 1984 novel Blood Music; he called them "biologics:"

Why limit oneself to silicon and protein and biochips a hundreth of a millimeter wide, when in almost every living cell there was already a functioning computer with a huge memory?

Let's hope we don't wind up with what Bear called intellectual cells. From RNA-based logic gates compute inside cells.

Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 10/19/2008)

Follow this kind of news @Technovelgy.

| Email | RSS | Blog It | Stumble | del.icio.us | Digg | Reddit |

Would you like to contribute a story tip? It's easy:
Get the URL of the story, and the related sf author, and add it here.

Comment/Join discussion ( 0 )

Related News Stories - (" Biology ")

Let's Make Slaver Sunflowers! Engineering Plants To Reflect Light
'The mirror-blossom was a terrible weapon.' - Larry Niven, 1965.

Machete-Wielding Philodendron Isn't Going To Take It Anymore
'The tree ended its wild larruping, stood like a dreaming giant liable to wake into frenzy at any moment.' - Eric Frank Russell, 1943.

Tsunami Forecasts Improved By Ionosphere Signals
'Swifter than any tide could ebb, the water was receding from the shore.'

EctoLife Concept Video Artificial Womb For Baby Mass Production
'A great many of these synthetic babies were made and allowed to grow up under ideal conditions...' - Dr. David H. Keller, 1928.

 

Google
  Web TechNovelgy.com   

Technovelgy (that's tech-novel-gee!) is devoted to the creative science inventions and ideas of sf authors. Look for the Invention Category that interests you, the Glossary, the Invention Timeline, or see what's New.

 

 

 

 

Science Fiction Timeline
1600-1899
1900-1939
1940's   1950's
1960's   1970's
1980's   1990's
2000's   2010's

Current News

Vast Apartment Living Will Get Even More Vast
'What is your population', I asked. 'About eighty millions.'

NASA Wants Self-Driving Or Remote-Controlled Vehicles For Lunar Astronauts
'THE autobus turned silently down the wide street of Hydropole. Robot-guided, insulated from noise and cold...'

Elon Musk Says Robotaxis Will Be Ready This August, 2024
'The car had no steering wheel, and no one drove!'

Moonwalkers AI-Controlled Electric Shoes
Now that's power walking that Hugo Gernsback would have approved.

Steve Jobs: 'Capture The Next Aristotle - With AI'
'It was disturbing to think of the Flatline as a construct...'

No Tips! Robotic Food Delivery In Phoenix
'...he rewired the delivery robot so that it would serve him midnight snacks.'

Electric Catamaran 'Explorer Eco 40m' Has 'Solar Skin'
'On went the electric-yacht faster and still faster.'

Orbital Mechanics, The Liftoff, The Turnover, The Retrograde Burn
'...the huge vessel had spun, with a sickening lurch, through a complete half-circle, the instant the power was reversed.'

Harvest Power From Tears And Blinking With Smart Contact Lens
'...he realized that it was not quite a clear lens. Speckles of colored brightness swirled and gathered in it.'

Europa Clipper Plate Carries A Special Message
'...a universal cryptogram yet it is one which can be interpreted by any intelligent creature on any planet in the Solar System!'

Micro-Robots Are Smallest, Fully Functional
'With a whir, the Scarab shot from the concealing shadows of the corner where it had hidden itself.'

AI Enhances Images Your Brain Sees
'I could have sworn the psychomat showed pictures almost as sharp and detailed as reality itself'

Illustrating Classic Heinlein With AI
'Stasis, cold sleep, hibernation, hypothermia, reduced metabolism, call it what you will - the logistics-medicine research teams had found a way to stack people like cordwood and use them when needed.'

Deflector Plasma Screen For Drones ala Star Wars
'If the enemy persists in attacking or even intensifies their power, the density of the plasma in space will suddenly increase, causing it to reflect most of the incoming energy like a mirror.'

DIY Robotic Hand Made After Loss Of Fingers
'I made them... with the fine work of the watchmaker...'

Cheap Drunk Driver Detection From UofM
"Look, I can drive... Start, darn it!"

More SF in the News Stories

More Beyond Technovelgy science news stories

Home | Glossary | Invention Timeline | Category | New | Contact Us | FAQ | Advertise |
Technovelgy.com - where science meets fiction™

Copyright© Technovelgy LLC; all rights reserved.