Computer circuits made of genes may soon program bacteria

From: Mike Williams (
Date: Tue May 06 2003 - 23:46:24 MDT by Erica Klarreich.

"Researchers have imported notions of electrical engineering—digital logic,
memory, and oscillators—into the realm of biology. Their plan: to create
cells with computer programs hardwired into the DNA.

"Between 1998 and 2001, Weiss took some of the first steps toward building
cellular logic gates when he modeled and built a cellular inverter, an AND
gate, and two other gates.

"In 2000, Gardner and his colleagues James Collins and Charles Cantor, both
also of Boston University, built a memory device in E. coli out of two
inverters for which the output protein of one is the input protein of the
other, and vice versa.

"Weiss is now bringing another tool—evolution—into the design process. Once
a circuit is working almost as he wants, instead of the engineers' refining
the design again and again, Weiss permits the DNA to mutate and lets a
lab-made version of natural selection do the hard work."

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