By Aaron Sankin
Researchers at Stanford University announced this week that they've created genetic receptors that can act as a sort of "biological computer," potentially revolutionizing how diseases are treated.
In a paper published in the journal "Science" on Friday, the team described their system of genetic transistors, which can be inserted into living cells and turned on and off if certain conditions are met. The researchers hope these transistors could eventually be built into microscopic living computers. Said computers would be able to accomplish tasks like telling if a certain toxin is present inside a cell, seeing how many times a cancerous cell has divided or determining precisely how an administered drug interacts with each individual cell.
Once the transistor determines the conditions are met, it could then be used to make the cell, and many other cells around it, do a specific thing--like telling cancerous cells to destroy themselves.
"We're going to be able to put computers into any living cell you want," lead researcher at the Stanford School of Engineering Drew Endy explained to the San Jose Mercury News. "We're not going to replace the silicon computers. We're not going to replace your phone or your laptop. But we're going to get computing working in places where silicon would never work." . . .
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