Biosynthetic Computer Finds its Way into Human Cells

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Welcome to a world where a computer the size of a cell is made up of purely biological components! Yes, researchers at ETH Zurich have found a solution that helps combine engineered biological components into scalable circuits. Firstly, the new development comes under the area of synthetic biology. This branch of science is a branch of biological engineering, designing new biological parts, systems or devices for a purpose.

With synthetic biology taking new strides each passing day, the complete programming of mammalian cell behavior is not far. Using advanced logic gates to control gene expression is a key aim in synthetic biology. However, till date, biotechnologists could find no solution to create a flexible, complex processor from bio-components.

Generation of circuits that perform adder function in a biological environment was a challenge so far. However, the introduction of CRSIPR/Cas9 technology solves this problem.

Emergence of CRISPR/Cas9

CRISPR/Cas9 is a technology that allows genome editing by removal, alteration or addition of DNA sequences. A core processor based on CRISPR/Cas9 enables a wide range of bitwise, Boolean, and arithmetic operations. The scientists combine two orthogonal core processors in a single cell, providing greater capacities. The researchers suggest that this system has potential application in therapeutics.

Further analysis will lead to a full ‘biocomputing core’. The cell, loaded with custom-programmed circuits will perform unique functions. Consequently, millions or billions of cells realized in this way can enable multicore bioprocessing.

Disease Relevant Inputs Possible

Such a circuit can use biomedical markers as input to the CRISPR/Cas9 gene expression system, and produce therapeutic output. As a result, even endogenous genes can be input which is disease-relevant. This will be a stepping stone towards realizing a complete CRIPSR CPU technology in mammalian synthetic biology.

Edward Turner

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