Living computers: RNA circuits transform cells into nanodevices

ScienceDaily | 7/26/2017 | Staff
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In new research, Alex Green, a professor at ASU's Biodesign Institute, demonstrates how living cells can be induced to carry out computations in the manner of tiny robots or computers.

The results of the new study have significant implications for intelligent drug design and smart drug delivery, green energy production, low-cost diagnostic technologies and even the development of futuristic nanomachines capable of hunting down cancer cells or switching off aberrant genes.

Interactions - Circuits - Green - Computer - Software

"We're using very predictable and programmable RNA-RNA interactions to define what these circuits can do," says Green. "That means we can use computer software to design RNA sequences that behave the way we want them to in a cell. It makes the design process a lot faster."

The study appears in the advance online edition of the journal Nature.

Approach - Circuits - Acid - RNA - Circuit

The approach described uses circuits composed of ribonucleic acid or RNA. These circuit designs, which resemble conventional electronic circuits, self-assemble in bacterial cells, allowing them to sense incoming messages and respond to them by producing a particular computational output, (in this case, a protein).

In the new study, specialized circuits known as logic gates were designed in the lab, then incorporated into living cells. The tiny circuit switches are tripped when messages (in the form of RNA fragments) attach themselves to their complementary RNA sequences in the cellular circuit, activating the logic gate and producing a desired output.

RNA - Switches - Ways - Logic - Inputs

The RNA switches can be combined in various ways to produce more complex logic gates capable of evaluating and responding to multiple inputs, just as a simple computer may take several variables and perform sequential operations like addition and subtraction in order to reach a final result.

The new study dramatically improves the ease with which cellular computing may be carried out. The RNA-only approach to producing cellular nanodevices is a significant advance, as earlier efforts required the use...
(Excerpt) Read more at: ScienceDaily
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