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Complex Logic Circuit Made From Bacterial Genes 37

another random user writes "Just as electronic circuits are made from resistors, capacitors and transistors, biological circuits can be made from genes and regulatory proteins. Engineer Tae Seok Moon's dream is to design modular 'genetic parts' that can be used to build logic controllers inside microbes that will program them to make fuel, clean up pollutants, or kill infectious bacteria or cancerous cells. The circuit Moon eventually built consisted of four sensors for four different molecules that fed into three two-input AND gates. If all four molecules were present, all three AND gates turned on and the last one produced a reporter protein that fluoresced red, so that the operation of the circuit could be easily monitored."
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Complex Logic Circuit Made From Bacterial Genes

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  • by pepty ( 1976012 ) on Sunday October 14, 2012 @04:37PM (#41651637)
    Actually, we are very likely to outperform nature when it comes to specialized jobs like eating crude oil in the gulf. We would start off with the organisms that are there naturally and optimize them for better metabolism in that specific environment, or hybridize them with other bacteria to make them more efficient in other environments. The trade off is the resulting microbes are crap at living under other conditions, but we don't care about that. Nature makes horses fast but evolution balances speed against fragility. People breeding horses make horses much faster - and then watch in horror as their legs break like matchsticks. When it comes to industrial bacteria, people turn mustangs into the equivalent of eight legged quarterhorses on steroids that keel over just after finishing their first race.

    I don't see Moon's research conferring much of an advantage in industrial, remediation, or medical uses; those are best off with a single control mechanism. Most of the decision making process for those situations will continue to be most efficient if it is done outside of the bacteria. For an analogy: a factory could have four sensors hooked up to four smartphones to tell it how much it has in stock of four diffeerent parts and automatically order more when the levels get too low. Or instead a factory could have a sensor and a smart phone phone attached to each and every individual part to do that job. Each part would have to carry that sensor and phone which would inflate its cost without contributing to its final use. Ditto for distributing the control architecture to the bacteria.

    I think the use for Moon's control architecture will be in research; the rest (like you said) will be hype.

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