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 |
you like to contribute a story tip?
Get the URL of the story, and the related sf author, and add
Comment/Join discussion ( 0 )
Related News Stories -
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.
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.
Orwell's Memory Hole Looms Larger Thanks To Nvidia
'All history was a palimpsest, scraped clean and reinscribed exactly as often as was necessary.'
Pipefish Robot Checks Pipes Cheap
Just like capsule endoscopy, but for bigger pipes. That go underground.
Nifty New SDS Space Debris Sensor For ISS
'Their radars... could easily pinpoint the debris of the early Space Age.'
NanoRacks Space Station Module Concept Validated
Space junk into space architecture.
Nuclear Drones Could Fly For Years
'I sent my eyes on their rounds and tended my gallery of one hundred-thirty changing pictures...'
SciFiQ Science Fiction Writing Aid
'Books were just a commodity that had to be produced, like jam or bootlaces.'
Robot Only Faster, Not Better, At Recycling
'Whenever a robot finds something it can't identify straight off... it puts whatever it is in the hopper outside your window.'
Poland Starts With 1000 Warmate 'Suicide Drones'
'Royal Security had told the pods to electrocute you or blast you into chum.'
Dream Of Building Your Own Rocket?
Fiorello Bodoni, you inspire all of us.
Zero Mass 'Vaporators' Pull Drinking Water From The Air
Did you think of Star Wars?
Elon Musk Fears A 'Fleet-Wide Hack' Of Autonomous Vehicles
'Khan grinned. 'It's alive! Bu-wahhahahah!''
China Melts Tibetan Permafrost To Plant Forest
'Can you give us a microwave spotlight?'
iFlytek Doctor Robot First To Pass Medical Exams
Doctor shortage? No problem, we'll just use the autodoc.
Slaughterbot AI KIller Quadcopter Drones
'The real border was defended by... a swarm of quasi-independent aerostats.'
Do We Really Want Backflipping Robots?
Also includes wonderful blooper reel.
RNA-Based Biocomputing Device
Living things can sense and analyze complex signals in living cells.
More SF in the News Stories
More Beyond Technovelgy science news stories