Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Device made of DNA inserted into bacterial cell works like a diagnostic computer

Date:
February 7, 2013
Source:
Weizmann Institute of Science
Summary:
A biological device made of DNA inserted into a bacterial cell works like a tiny diagnostic computer.

NOR logic gate. If two transcriptionfactors are missing, green light is emitted.
Credit: Image courtesy of Weizmann Institute of Science

Scientists hope that one day in the distant future, miniature, medically-savvy computers will roam our bodies, detecting early-stage diseases and treating them on the spot by releasing a suitable drug, without any outside help. To make this vision a reality, computers must be sufficiently small to fit into body cells. Moreover, they must be able to "talk" to various cellular systems. These challenges can be best addressed by creating computers based on biological molecules such as DNA or proteins. The idea is far from outrageous; after all, biological organisms are capable of receiving and processing information, and of responding accordingly, in a way that resembles a computer.

Researchers at the Weizmann Institute of Science have recently made an important step in this direction: They have succeeded in creating a genetic device that operates independently in bacterial cells. The device has been programmed to identify certain parameters and mount an appropriate response.

The device searches for transcription factors -- proteins that control the expression of genes in the cell. A malfunction of these molecules can disrupt gene expression. In cancer cells, for example, the transcription factors regulating cell growth and division do not function properly, leading to increased cell division and the formation of a tumor. The device, composed of a DNA sequence inserted into a bacterium, performs a "roll call" of transcription factors. If the results match preprogrammed parameters, it responds by creating a protein that emits a green light -- supplying a visible sign of a "positive" diagnosis. In follow-up research, the scientists -- Prof. Ehud Shapiro and Dr. Tom Ran of the Biological Chemistry and Computer Science and Applied Mathematics Departments -- plan to replace the light-emitting protein with one that will affect the cell's fate, for example, a protein that can cause the cell to commit suicide. In this manner, the device will cause only "positively" diagnosed cells to self-destruct.

In the present study, published in Nature's Scientific Reports, the researchers first created a device that functioned like what is known in computing as a NOR logical gate: It was programmed to check for the presence of two transcription factors and respond by emitting a green light only if both were missing. When the scientists inserted the device into four types of genetically engineered bacteria -- those making both transcription factors, those making none of the transcription factors, and two types making one of the transcription factors each -- only the appropriate bacteria shone green. Next, the research team -- which also included graduate students Yehonatan Douek and Lilach Milo -- created more complex genetic devices, corresponding to additional logical gates.

Following the success of the study in bacterial cells, the researchers are planning to test ways of recruiting such bacteria as an efficient system to be conveniently inserted into the human body for medical purposes (which shouldn't be a problem; recent research reveals there are already 10 times more bacterial cells in the human body than human cells). Yet another research goal is to operate a similar system inside human cells, which are much more complex than bacteria.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Weizmann Institute of Science. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Tom Ran, Yehonatan Douek, Lilach Milo, Ehud Shapiro. A programmable NOR-based device for transcription profile analysis. Scientific Reports, 2012; 2 DOI: 10.1038/srep00641

Cite This Page:

Weizmann Institute of Science. "Device made of DNA inserted into bacterial cell works like a diagnostic computer." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 7 February 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/02/130207074254.htm>.
Weizmann Institute of Science. (2013, February 7). Device made of DNA inserted into bacterial cell works like a diagnostic computer. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 25, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/02/130207074254.htm
Weizmann Institute of Science. "Device made of DNA inserted into bacterial cell works like a diagnostic computer." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/02/130207074254.htm (accessed July 25, 2014).

Share This




More Plants & Animals News

Friday, July 25, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

How to Make Single Serving Smoothies: Howdini Hacks

How to Make Single Serving Smoothies: Howdini Hacks

Howdini (July 24, 2014) Smoothies are a great way to get in lots of healthy ingredients, plus they taste great! Howdini has a trick for making the perfect single-size smoothie that will save you time on cleanup too! All you need is a blender and a mason jar. Video provided by Howdini
Powered by NewsLook.com
Boy Attacked by Shark in Florida

Boy Attacked by Shark in Florida

Reuters - US Online Video (July 24, 2014) An 8-year-old boy is bitten in the leg by a shark while vacationing at a Florida beach. Linda So reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Goma Cheese Brings Whiff of New Hope to DRC

Goma Cheese Brings Whiff of New Hope to DRC

Reuters - Business Video Online (July 24, 2014) The eastern region of the Democratic Republic of Congo, mainly known for conflict and instability, is an unlikely place for the production of fine cheese. But a farm in the village of Masisi, in North Kivu is slowly transforming perceptions of the area. Known simply as Goma cheese, the Congolese version of Dutch gouda has gained popularity through out the region. Ciara Sutton reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Tyrannosaur Pack-Hunting Theory Aided By New Footprints

Tyrannosaur Pack-Hunting Theory Aided By New Footprints

Newsy (July 24, 2014) A new study claims a set of prehistoric T-Rex footprints supports the theory that the giant predators hunted in packs instead of alone. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins