back to article Boffins make bio-chip breakthrough

MIT boffins have made a breakthrough in biological computing that paves the way for cancer-detecting yogurts and other gloopy marvels. The advance, which saw the researchers combine logic and memory within a single living cell, was published in the "Synthetic circuits integrating logic and memory in living cells" paper in …


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  1. Graham Dawson Silver badge

    Suddenly Greg Bear's Blood Music seems less fanciful and more than a little worryingly real...

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge


      What's wrong with you! I can't wait for THOUGHT UNIVERSE and the purple snow!!

      1. Graham Dawson Silver badge

        It's the bit where we all turn into slightly worrying membranes that I'm concerned with.

        1. TheOtherHobbes

          If your membranes are worrying about being a membrane

          it's already a bit late for that.

  2. Anonymous Coward

    Information storage on cells....

    Ether "Blood Music", or this will eventually lead to Sgt. Schlock.

    The fully-enviro sealed, nannie-proofed carbonan jumpsuit, please.

  3. frank ly

    re. "Messy collection of data aside, ..."

    You're not thinking this through. Combine this breakthrough with DNA from electric eels and fireflies, then the bacterial sensors will be able to send data via bluetooth or by encoded flashes as they lay steaming in the pan.

    The possibilities are endless and potentially very entertaining (your sense of humour may vary).

  4. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Thumb Up


    So we have logic + a data tape.

    Need a system that reads the DNA and using it to configure the logic gates to accept inputs and process them.

    A sort of "program" if you will.

    True it's unlikely to break speed records.

    But check the density. Less a processor array and rather more "smart matter," as people talked about the arrays to do CFD simulation.

    Thumbs up. This may be one of the ways of the future.

    1. MondoMan
      Thumb Down

      Re: Impressive.

      The density seems to be 4 bits in a cubic micron (assuming a 2D layer of cells, that would be a feature size of 250 nm -- not too impressive).

      There's already a perfectly good processing system in the cell; trying to crudely implement boolean logic in DNA seems about as elegant and useful as simulating CPU function on sheets of paper with a pencil.

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

      2. John Smith 19 Gold badge

        Re: Impressive.

        "he density seems to be 4 bits in a cubic micron (assuming a 2D layer of cells, that would be a feature size of 250 nm -- not too impressive)"

        I'll make 2 points.

        How many layers of those memory elements can you lay down on a semiconductor chip, not material layers. Actually unified working components?

        Because that's pretty much 1 layer (3d chips with multiple layers of logic and/or memory have not worked out well), versus as many as you like with a protein/DNA system. Those DNA layers are likely to be 10-100x thinner than any viable semiconductor layer (which on conventional wafers sits on about a 300-500 micrometre thick silicon layer).

        Secondly this is v0.1 technology. It's not got data input and to make proper use of existing data mechanisms (the ribosome) you'd want to store in codons and a double helix with 1 twist giving six bits of storage.

        DNA give you volumetric density in way conventional semiconductor processing simply does not.

        Changing the mindset to play to its strengths and adapt to its weaknesses will be challenging.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Sounds great, a true breakthrough and leap forward. Let's hope it doesn't end there and never get's heard of again like many other breakthroughs We've heard of the past 20 years.

  6. Herby

    Who is going to do...

    The "see these cells and collect them" stage. Hopefully this is a more automated process for the sake of all of us.

    Brings new meaning to "get your....together".

    1. Dave 62

      Re: Who is going to do...

      We just need to persuade the bacteria to produce, for example, the green fluorescent protein of "glo in dark kitteh iz r glo in dark" fame. (yoghurt)

      shit = patient.shit(optional name location?)

      If shit.luminance > ambient.luminance

      patient.cancer = true

  7. Euripides Pants

    How long until someone

    makes a virus for it?

    1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

      I'm thinking more Tleilaxu.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    If you will ...

    ... a "data log".

    1. John Smith 19 Gold badge

      Re: If you will ...

      "... a "data log"."

      Fnaar, fnaar.

  9. The last doughnut


    More gloopy marvels ...

  10. Mips

    Okay! So we now have shit that can do calculations.

    So what's new?

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