The researchers, from Imperial College London, have demonstrated that they can build logic gates, which are used for processing information in devices such as computers and microprocessors, out of harmless gut bacteria and DNA. These are the most advanced biological logic gates ever created by scientists.
Professor Richard Kitney, co-author of the paper from the Centre for Synthetic Biology and Innovation and the Department of Bioengineering at Imperial College London, says:
"Logic gates are the fundamental building blocks in silicon circuitry that our entire digital age is based on. Without them, we could not process digital information. Now that we have demonstrated that we can replicate these parts using bacteria and DNA, we hope that our work could lead to a new generation of biological processors, whose applications in information processing could be as important as their electronic equivalents."
Although still a long way off, the team suggest that these biological logic gates could one day form the building blocks in microscopic biological computers. Devices may include sensors that swim inside arteries, detecting the build up of harmful plaque and rapidly delivering medications to the affected zone. Other applications may include sensors that detect and destroy cancer cells inside the body and pollution monitors that can be deployed in the environment, detecting and neutralising dangerous toxins such as arsenic.
Previous research only proved that biological logic gates could be made. The team say that the advantage of their biological logic gates over previous attempts is that they behave more like their electronic counterparts. The new biological gates are also modular, which means that they can be fitted together to make different types of logic gates, paving the way for more complex biological processors to be built in the future.
In the new study, the researchers demonstrated how these biological logic gates worked. In one experiment, they showed how biological logic gates can replicate the way that electronic logic gates process information by either switching "on" or "off".
The scientists constructed a type of logic gate called an "AND Gate" from bacteria called Escherichia coli (E.Coli), which is normally found in the lower intestine. The team altered the E.Coli with modified DNA, which reprogrammed it to perform the same switching on and off process as its electronic equivalent when stimulated by chemicals.
The researchers were also able to demonstrate that the biological logic gates could be connected together to form more complex components in a similar way that electronic components are made. In another experiment, the researchers created a "NOT gate" and combined it with the AND gate to produce the more complex "NAND gate".
The next stage of the research will see the team trying to develop more complex circuitry that comprises multiple logic gates. One of challenges faced by the team is finding a way to link multiple biological logic gates together, similar to the way in which electronic logic gates are linked together, to enable complex processing to be carried out.
For further information please contact:
Senior Research Media Officer
Imperial College London
Tel: +44(0)20 7594 6712
Out of hours duty press officer: +44(0)7803 886 248
Notes to Editors:
1. " Engineering modular orthogonal genetic logic gates for robust digital-like synthetic biology ", 18 October 2011, Nature Communications journal.
The full listing of authors and their affiliations for this paper is as follows:
Baojan Wang (1), Richard Kitney (1), Nicolas Joly (2) (*) and Martin Buck (2)
(1) Centre for Synthetic Biology and Innovation and Department of Bioengineering, Imperial College, London SW7 2AZ, UK
(2) Division of Biology, Faculty of natural Sciences, Imperial College, London SW7 2AZ, UK
(*)Present address: Institute Jacques Monod, CNRS UMR 7592 , Universite Paris Diderot, Paris 75205, France.
Link to study: https://fileexchange.imperial.ac.uk/files/e18b422069/ncomms1516.pdf
2. About Imperial College London
Consistently rated amongst the world's best universities, Imperial College London is a science-based institution with a reputation for excellence in teaching and research that attracts 14,000 students and 6,000 staff of the highest international quality. Innovative research at the College explores the interface between science, medicine, engineering and business, delivering practical solutions that improve quality of life and the environment - underpinned by a dynamic enterprise culture.
Since its foundation in 1907, Imperial's contributions to society have included the discovery of penicillin, the development of holography and the foundations of fibre optics. This commitment to the application of research for the benefit of all continues today, with current focuses including interdisciplinary collaborations to improve global health, tackle climate change, develop sustainable sources of energy and address security challenges.
In 2007, Imperial College London and Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust formed the UK's first Academic Health Science Centre. This unique partnership aims to improve the quality of life of patients and populations by taking new discoveries and translating them into new therapies as quickly as possible.
Colin Smith | Source: EurekAlert!
Further information: www.imperial.ac.uk
Further Reports about: Bioengineering > biological process > Bird Communication > building block > dangerous toxin > DNA > E. coli > Escherichia coli > logic gates > Nature Immunology > quality of life > synthetic biology
More articles from Life Sciences:
Molecular snapshot of the plant immune system’s signal box
11.12.2013 | Max Planck Institute for Plant Breeding Research, Köln
Successful Teamwork: Unusual fungal metabolites with antitumor activity discovered by crowdsourcing
11.12.2013 | Angewandte Chemie International Edition
The molecular architecture of three key proteins and their complexes reveals how plants fine-tune their immune response to pathogens
Plants rarely get sick in their natural environment. When the threat of infection arises, a quick decision is made about the necessary countermeasures. The course is set by a protein which forms complexes with its partner proteins for this purpose.
Jane Parker from the Max Planck Institute for Plant Breeding ...
Researchers studying speciation of butterfly orchids on the Azores have been startled to discover that the answer to a long-debated question "Do the islands support one species or two species?" is actually "three species".
Hochstetter's Butterfly-orchid, newly recognized following application of a battery of scientific techniques and reveling in a complex taxonomic history worthy of Sherlock Holmes, is arguably Europe's rarest orchid species. Under threat in its mountain-top retreat, the orchid urgently requires conservation recognition.
A lavishly illustrated publication, titled "Systematic revision of Platanthera in ...
Researchers from Brown University and the University of Hawaii have found some mineralogical surprises in the Moon's largest impact crater.
Data from the Moon Mineralogy Mapper that flew aboard India's Chandrayaan-1 lunar orbiter shows a diverse mineralogy in the subsurface of the giant South Pole Aitken basin.
The differing mineral signatures could be reflective of the minerals dredged up at the time of the giant impact 4 billion years ago, ...
In power electronics systems bonded connections create the central electrical connections between adjoining surfaces.
The quality of these bonded connections is one of the main factors that determines the reliability and availability of drive systems in electric vehicles, and hence constitutes a major design challenge for German auto manufacturers aiming to electrify their vehicles.
Now the partners participating in the RoBE (Robust Bonds in ...
International team of scientists develops new feedback method for optimizing the laser pulse shapes used in the control of chemical reactions
In many ways, traditional chemical synthesis is similar to cooking. To alter the final product, you can change the ingredients or their ratio, change the method of mixing ingredients, or change the temperature or pressure of the environment of the ingredients.
Like an accomplished chef, chemists have become very skilled ...
11.12.2013 | Information Technology
11.12.2013 | Life Sciences
11.12.2013 | Agricultural and Forestry Science
11.12.2013 | Event News
10.12.2013 | Event News
05.12.2013 | Event News