Through the use of synthetic biology researchers have been able to program cells to perform unique functions, like produce drugs in response to disease markers. In order to create more complex cellular circuits, several MIT engineers have now found a way to program cells to respond to a series of events.
These cells can remember up to three different inputs and by using this system, scientists can program cellular trajectories and create environmental sensors that store complex histories. As a result, complex computing systems can be built by integrating the element of memory together with computation. This will allow scientists to create biological “state machines” that exist in different conditions, which all depends on their identities and the order of inputs they receive.
Timothy Lu, and others working at MIT’s Research Laboratory of Electronics created circuits that could record events, then incorporated genes into recombinase binding sites. When recombinases rearrange the DNA the circuits are able to control which genes get turned on or off.
This technique can be used to follow the progression of diseases such as cancer. By knowing the order where cancer-causing mutations are acquired, scientists might determine how cancer cells develop into tumors and respond to drugs.
Source: MIT News