Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Researchers open the door to biological computers

15.12.2010
Genetically modified cells can be made to communicate with each other as if they were electronic circuits. Using yeast cells, a group of researchers at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden, has taken a groundbreaking step towards being able to build complex systems in the future where the body’s own cells help to keep us healthy. The study was presented recently in an article in the scientific journal Nature.

“Even though engineered cells can’t do the same job as a real computer, our study paves the way for building complex constructions from these cells,” says Kentaro Furukawa at the University of Gothenburg’s Department of Cell- and Molecular Biology, one of the researchers behind the study.

“In the future we expect that it will be possible to use similar cell-to-cell communication systems in the human body to detect changes in the state of health, to help fight illness at an early stage, or to act as biosensors to detect pollutants in connection with our ability to break down toxic substances in the environment.”

Combining biology and technology
Synthetic biology is a relatively new area of research. One application is the design of biological systems that are not found in nature. For example, researchers have successfully constructed a number of different artificial connections within genetically modified cells, such as circuit breakers, oscillators and sensors.

Some of these artificial networks could be used for industrial or medical applications. Despite the huge potential for these artificial connections, there have been many technical limitations to date, mainly because the artificial systems in individual cells rarely work as expected, which has a major impact on the results.

Biotechnology challenges the world of computers
Using yeast cells, the research team at the University of Gothenburg has now produced synthetic circuits based on gene-regulated communication between cells. The yeast cells have been modified genetically so that they sense their surroundings on the basis of set criteria and then send signals to other yeast cells by secreting molecules. The various cells can thus be combined like bricks of Lego to produce more complicated circuits. Using a construction of yeast cells with different genetic modifications, it is possible to carry out more complicated “electronic” functions than would be the case with just one type of cells.
The University of Gothenburg research team is headed by professor Stefan Hohmann, and also comprises Kentaro Furukawa and Jimmy Kjellén.

The article Distributed biological computation with multicellular engineered networks, published in the scientific journal Nature on 8 December, was the result of a partnership with two Spanish research teams at Universitat Pompeu Fabra in Barcelona. The work forms part of the EU CELLCOMPUT project.

For more information, please contact: Stefan Hohmann
Tel.:
+46 (0)31 3608488
E-mail: 
stefan.hohmann@gu.se
Journal: Nature
Year published: (2010)
DOI: 10.1038/nature09679
Authors: Sergi Regot, Javier Macia, Núria Conde, Kentaro Furukawa, Jimmy Kjellén, Tom Peeters, Stefan Hohmann, Eulàlia de Nadal, Francesc Posas, Ricard Solé

Helena Aaberg | idw
Further information:
http://www.gu.se

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Making fuel out of thick air
08.12.2017 | DOE/Argonne National Laboratory

nachricht ‘Spying’ on the hidden geometry of complex networks through machine intelligence
08.12.2017 | Technische Universität Dresden

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Towards data storage at the single molecule level

The miniaturization of the current technology of storage media is hindered by fundamental limits of quantum mechanics. A new approach consists in using so-called spin-crossover molecules as the smallest possible storage unit. Similar to normal hard drives, these special molecules can save information via their magnetic state. A research team from Kiel University has now managed to successfully place a new class of spin-crossover molecules onto a surface and to improve the molecule’s storage capacity. The storage density of conventional hard drives could therefore theoretically be increased by more than one hundred fold. The study has been published in the scientific journal Nano Letters.

Over the past few years, the building blocks of storage media have gotten ever smaller. But further miniaturization of the current technology is hindered by...

Im Focus: Successful Mechanical Testing of Nanowires

With innovative experiments, researchers at the Helmholtz-Zentrums Geesthacht and the Technical University Hamburg unravel why tiny metallic structures are extremely strong

Light-weight and simultaneously strong – porous metallic nanomaterials promise interesting applications as, for instance, for future aeroplanes with enhanced...

Im Focus: Virtual Reality for Bacteria

An interdisciplinary group of researchers interfaced individual bacteria with a computer to build a hybrid bio-digital circuit - Study published in Nature Communications

Scientists at the Institute of Science and Technology Austria (IST Austria) have managed to control the behavior of individual bacteria by connecting them to a...

Im Focus: A space-time sensor for light-matter interactions

Physicists in the Laboratory for Attosecond Physics (run jointly by LMU Munich and the Max Planck Institute for Quantum Optics) have developed an attosecond electron microscope that allows them to visualize the dispersion of light in time and space, and observe the motions of electrons in atoms.

The most basic of all physical interactions in nature is that between light and matter. This interaction takes place in attosecond times (i.e. billionths of a...

Im Focus: A transistor of graphene nanoribbons

Transistors based on carbon nanostructures: what sounds like a futuristic dream could be reality in just a few years' time. An international research team working with Empa has now succeeded in producing nanotransistors from graphene ribbons that are only a few atoms wide, as reported in the current issue of the trade journal "Nature Communications."

Graphene ribbons that are only a few atoms wide, so-called graphene nanoribbons, have special electrical properties that make them promising candidates for the...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Innovative strategies to tackle parasitic worms

08.12.2017 | Event News

AKL’18: The opportunities and challenges of digitalization in the laser industry

07.12.2017 | Event News

Blockchain is becoming more important in the energy market

05.12.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Making fuel out of thick air

08.12.2017 | Life Sciences

Rules for superconductivity mirrored in 'excitonic insulator'

08.12.2017 | Information Technology

Smartphone case offers blood glucose monitoring on the go

08.12.2017 | Information Technology

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>