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 |

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 ")

Researchers Say 'Biohybrid Robot' - Clarke Said 'Biot'
'... The biological robots were not living creatures.' - Arthur C. Clarke, 1972.

Unique DNA To Foil Parts Counterfeiters
'... the only molecule, a unique protein amino acid, which could not be duplicated.' - Philip K. Dick, 1965.

Steerable Locusts Detect Explosives
Science fiction writers again provide a blueprint for the future.

Real Leather Without Cows Modern Meadow Biofabrication
'Plastissue, as any fool can see...' - WF Wallace, 1952,

 

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

PassivDom 3D Printed House - What If You Could Live Anywhere?
'The houses are prefabricated units...'

Breakthrough In Manufacture Of Red Blood Cells
This blood's for you!

Caihong Solar-Powered Drone 'Atmospheric Satellite'
'... placed in the wings of a plane to generate power from the light falling on that surface.'

NASA Wants Low Earth Orbit Wifi
'This was the center of Interplanetary Communications.'

Is Genetic Testing At Businesses A Bad Idea?
It's not a topic that fares well in science fiction movies-

Wearable Smart Jacket
He pressed the button in his sleeve communicator and snapped: 'Action stations!'

Store One Bit On One Atom
'...each individual molecule has a meaning.'

Fluorescent Bacteria Fashion
'The racks of gowns itched and quivered, their colors running into blurred pools.'

Keith Laumer's Bolo Autonomous Tanks Right On Schedule
'I cannot lie idle under attack.'

When Computers Develop Their Own Language, Will They Talk To Us?
'The curious absent look of a robot talking on the TBR circuits - the Talk Between Robots radio...'

LipNet Reads Lips - Until Disconnected, That Is
'We'd have to cut his higher brain functions... I'm not sure what [HAL} would think about that.'

Eterni.me - To Skype With The Dead
'Nothing... left of Jeserac but a galaxy of electrons frozen in the heart of a crystal.'

Wearable MRI Is Former Occulus/Facebook Exec's New Project
'Your cephalochromoscope... that you always turn on and play when you get home...'

Ford Stratasys Infinte Build 3D Printer
'He proudly indicated his Buick... Almost as good as the original it was printed from...'

The Space Suit As Personal Spaceship
'Darn clever, these suits...'

Dune Fans! Your God Emperor Is Ready
'If one held a sandtrout in the hand, smoothing it over your skin, it formed a living glove.'

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.