- A new ‘dual core’ cell could help make powerful biocomputers say researchers
- Application of the cells could help combat illnesses like cancer in the future
- By connecting cells into microtissue, scientists say processing would increase
Researchers say they’ve successfully created a more powerful computer-like human cell that could eventually be used to help monitor one’s health or even fight against cancer and other illnesses.
Using the gene-editing tool CRISPR-Cas9, researchers were able to model a human cell after a computer and make what they are referring to as a ‘program scalable circuits.’
‘This cell computer may sound like a very revolutionary idea, but that’s not the case,” said Martin Fussenegger, Professor of Biotechnology and Bioengineering at the Department of Biosystems Science and Engineering at ETH Zurich in Basel.
‘The human body itself is a large computer. Its metabolism has drawn on the computing power of trillions of cells since time immemorial.’
The cell works like a computer to change the expression of gene characteristics, leveraging a special variant of the Cas9 protein to read RNA sequences and then flipping gene expressions on and off to produce certain proteins.
Though the ‘technology’ in this case is biological, it closely mirrors how CPU’s function in that the cell processor can be told to carry out specific actions depending on the desired outcome.
By wielding control over the actions of the ‘cell computer‘ their creation could help to no only identify events happening inside one’s body by reacting to certain chemical processes or metabolic products, but also help respond to them.
For instance, researchers say, if a certain biomarker remains in the body for a longer period of time, the phenomenon could indicate that cancer is metastasizing. The ‘biocomputer’ could then help target the growth and use its capabilities to remove it.