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Monday, July 25, 2016

The Biological 'Computer', From MIT

How MIT’s New Biological ‘Computer’ Works, and What It Could Do in the Future

Graham Templeton | July 25, 2106

For years now, scientists have been working to make cells into computers. It’s a logical goal; cells store information in something roughly approximating memory, they behave due to the strict, rules-based expression of programming in response to stimuli, and they can carry out operations with astonishing speed. Each cell contains enough physical complexity to theoretically be quite a powerful computing unit all on its own, but each is also small enough to pack by the millions into tiny physical spaces. With a fully realized ability to program cell behavior as reliably as we do computer behavior, there’s no telling what biological computing could accomplish.
Now, researchers from MIT have taken a step toward this possible future, with cellular machines that can perform simple computational operations and store, then recall, memory.

The circuits, described in the Feb. 10 [2013] online edition of Nature Biotechnology, could be used as long-term environmental sensors, efficient controls for biomanufacturing, or to program stem cells to differentiate into other cell types.
“Almost all of the previous work in synthetic biology that we’re aware of has either focused on logic components or on memory modules that just encode memory. We think complex computation will involve combining both logic and memory, and that’s why we built this particular framework to do so,” says Timothy Lu, an MIT assistant professor of electrical engineering and computer science and biological engineering and senior author of the Nature Biotechnology paper.
(Cell circuits remember their history. MIT engineers design new synthetic biology circuits that combine memory and logic. February 10, 2013) Source:

"Summary of a three-input, 16-state RSM. (A) The RSM mechanism. A chemical input induces the expression of a recombinase (from a gene on the input plasmid) that modifies a DNA register made up of overlapping and orthogonal recombinase recognition sites. Distinct recombinases can be controlled by distinct inputs. These recombinases each target multiple orthogonal pairs of their cognate recognition sites (shown as triangles and half-ovals) to catalyze inversion (when the sites are anti-aligned) or excision (when the sites are aligned). (B) The register is designed to adopt a distinct DNA state for every identity and order of inputs. Three different inputs—orange, blue, and purple—are represented by colored arrows. Unrecombined recognition sites are shaded; recombined recognition sites are outlined." Source:

<more at; related articles and links: (Scientists program cells to remember and respond to series of stimuli. New approach to biological circuit design enables scientists to track cell histories. July 21, 2016) and (Cell circuits remember their history. MIT engineers design new synthetic biology circuits that combine memory and logic. February 10, 2013)>

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