DNA-based switches could be used in diagnosis and treatment of diseases
Save the clunky tricorders for Star Trek. One day, tiny biological computers with DNA-based circuitry could diagnose diseases.
Using snippets of DNA and DNA-clipping chemicals, researchers have created one key component of a computer’s brain: the transistor, a switch that helps electronics perform logic. The biological switch, dubbed a transcriptor, could be plugged together with other biological devices to boost the power of DNA-based computers, researchers report March 28 in Science.
With these switches, researchers might be able to program probiotic bacteria — the kind found in yogurt — to detect signs of colon cancer and then spit out warning signals, says study coauthor Jerome Bonnet of Stanford University. “The bacteria could actually travel through your gut and make a color in your poop,” he says.
Inside every smartphone, television and iPod, a computer chip holds circuits loaded with millions of transistors.