Nov 15, 2022

Transforming bacterial cells into living artificial neural circuits

Posted by in categories: bioengineering, biotech/medical, genetics, robotics/AI

Bringing together concepts from electrical engineering and bioengineering tools, Technion and MIT scientists collaborated to produce cells engineered to compute sophisticated functions— biocomputers of sorts.

Graduate students and researchers from Technion—Israel Institute of Technology Professor Ramez Daniel’s Laboratory for Synthetic Biology & Bioelectronics worked together with Professor Ron Weiss from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to create genetic “devices” designed to perform computations like artificial neural circuits. Their results were recently published in Nature Communications.

The was inserted into the bacterial cell in the form of a plasmid: a relatively short DNA molecule that remains separate from the bacteria’s “natural” genome. Plasmids also exist in nature, and serve various functions. The research group designed the plasmid’s genetic sequence to function as a simple computer, or more specifically, a simple artificial neural network. This was done by means of several genes on the plasmid regulating each other’s activation and deactivation according to outside stimuli.

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