Humans Teach Bacteria New Language

A group of scientists lead by Professor James C. Liao are engineering an artificial cell-to-cell communication network by teaching bacteria to communicate with each other and to work together in a whole new way. Bacteria commonly use chemicals to signal each other; the researchers sought to get bacteria to use different chemicals. The intent of the research is to achieve "novel, nonnative behavior in bacteria."

The team demonstrated that Escherichia coli bacteria could be taught to communicate with each other in new ways by adding new control genes into the bacteria's genome. The engineered cells talk with each other by secreting acetate, which is a normal by-product of E. Coli metabolism. However, once a defined concentration of acetate has been reached, the engineered cells have a specific reaction: the whole bacterial culture responds in concert by producing a green fluorescent protein - they light up. The result: a tunable quorum sensing circuit.

The authors believe that this cell-to-cell communication can "improve the biological production of chemicals and enable the construction of intelligent biocircuits." Eventually, they could get different kinds of cells to communicate who today ignore each other.

Highly organized, multicellular fans of science fiction writer Greg Bear are naturally horrified by this new development. In his terrific (and hopefully not prophetic) 1984 story Blood Music, Bear tells the story of how ordinary B-lymphocytes within the human body were transformed into intellectual cells and were taught to communicate and work together in new ways. I don't want to give away the ending, but let's just say that inventing the bacterial equivalent of Esperanto turned out to be a grandega miskalkuli. ;)

See also the reference article - Design of artificial cell-cell communication using gene and metabolic networks. The original story article was found here.

Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 2/13/2004)

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 ")

Amazing 'Hybrid' Solar-Powered Sea Slug Does Photosynthesis
Thank goodness for Star Trek.

Should You Submit Your DNA To A Database?
Consumer DNA services are often inaccurate.

Humans Evolve Deep Diving Abilities
Sounds like '60s sci-fi to me.

Researchers Create Bowls, Coils, Ripples Of Living Tissue
'... biological robots were not living creatures.' - Arthur C. Clarke, 1972.

 

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

China Uses Artificial Intelligence To Grade Student Papers
Looks like the City Fathers are starting to take over China's education system.

Electronic Tongues Will Rule The Kitchen
'Install taste buds in the end of one tentacle...'

Self-Healing Circuits From Carnegie Mellon
'It even had an inter-skin layer of gum that could seal the punctures...'

Swarm Of Mindless Robots Works Together
'Very tiny pseudo insects that... can unite to form a superordinate system.'

SpotMini Robot Dog, Autonomous And On Sale In 2019
Great, an autonomous slamhound. It is cute, though.

RoboFly Is Laser-Powered, Adorable
Don't swat this fly!

MSG Sphere Las Vegas, ala Star Wars
'The smoky globe, hung in the vault, was shot with colored light...'

Tetraplegics Dominate Avatar Races
Well, just speaking brain-to-computer...

MIT Ampli Blocks Build Biomedical Devices
Damn it Spock, I'm a doctor not an engineer!

UberAIR Asks For Skytaxi Landing Prototypes
You know you want to ride in one.

Boring Tunnel Almost Ready
Your underground future is calling!

Handheld Human Skin Printer
It outputs a thin wad of uniflesh.

Healthy Fast Food Courtesy Of Robot Chefs
'The electric cook was stirring empty nothing in a pan, with a zeal worthy a dozen eggs.'

Mass Production Of In Vitro Meat From One Sample
They're Assimilating Our Culture, That's What They're Doing

Amazing 'Hybrid' Solar-Powered Sea Slug Does Photosynthesis
Thank goodness for Star Trek.

Retinal Prosthesis Uses Organic Printing Inks
We can rebuild you - well, your eyes, maybe.

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.