Scientists from MIT have engineered a set of logic gates using DNA and cellular machinery. In short, they have turned living cells into working computers! Core logical functions are the basis of all modern computation, and developing this system is a huge step towards larger scale “biocomputers”. The applications are many and varied, the ability to having living organisms respond to programming has seemingly limitless potential. One example could be a medical colony of healthy bacteria programmed to produce and excrete medicine inside you at regular intervals before killing themselves at the end of your treatment. But thats just one basic idea.
The logic gates within the cell store their results in DNA itself, giving each logic gate its own personal “memory”, something electrical logic gates don’t currently have. This result history can remain for up to 90 generations and can be retrieved even after the cells carrying the switches are dead! Find out more about the exciting work in this Nature News piece, or in the original paper.