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 ")

China Melts Tibetan Permafrost To Plant Forest
'Can you give us a microwave spotlight?' - Niven, Pournelle, Flynn, 1995.

Hackers Insert Malware Into DNA
'They tied the memory to the bloodline and that was their record!' -

Worms Eat Plastic Now
'Slowly and inexorably, the rate of dissolution increased...' - Davis/Pedlar, 1971.

Mini-Brains In A Dish
'Cultured brains on a slab.' - Peter Watts, 1999.

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

Current News

A 'Genuine Nanorobotic Production Factory'
'Microscopic machinery, smaller than ants, smaller than pins, working energetically, purposefully - constructing something...'

Neuromorphic Computer Offers Non-von Neumann Architecture
Fires faster than brain at 1/10K energy.

Evorus Your Crowd-Powered Conversational Assistant
'...the DS [Daily Schedule] was suddenly transformed into a valued confidante.'

Mealworms Food Of The Future
Get your grubs on.

Alibaba's AI May Read Better Than You
'Mike ... could accept other languages and was doing technical translating - and reading endlessly.'

Musk's Boring Flamethrower
'Skeletons in tatters. Burned by a flesh gun'

Humanity Star LEO Advertisement?
'Everyone has noticed those enormous advertisements...'

Nissan ProPILOT Slippers Are Self-Parking, Autonomous
Beyond science and fiction.

Atomristors - Atomic Memristors - Using Thin Nanomaterials
'I could almost feel those little tunnel junction neuristors working, forming their own interconnections as I operated it.'

Bigelow Prepares Inflatable Lunar Hotel
'Suddenly, hitherto unheard-of sums of money became available for investment in civilian orbital stations.'

Drunk Driver Of Tesla Claims Autopilot Was In Charge
'Mr. Garden, you are in no condition to drive.'

Medical Exoskeleton From Cyberdyne Gets FDA Approval
It's been a long road for HAL-5; I started writing about it in 2005.

Fungi-Infused Concrete Repairs Itself
'I noticed that curious mottled knots were forming, indicating where the room had been strained and healed faultily.'

Shiftwear Display Shoes
'He unlaced her shoe and glanced at its readout.'

NASA SEXTANT First With X-Ray Nav In Space
'You need at least four beacons for an accurate fix.'

GM Introduces Cruise AV With No Steering Wheel
'How about the steering wheel?' ... 'I do not need one.'

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.