A research team led by SFI External Professor Ricard Solé shows in the journal Nature that it is possible to create biological systems with decision-making ability by using multiple combinations of cells modified by genetic engineering. Solé is the corresponding author of the paper.
The work opens the possibility of distributing biological “computations” over multiple cells that perform different logical functions and communicate with one another through signaling molecules that serve as chemical “wires.” The ability to divide computations among different cells means the cells can be used to build circuits analogous to those in electronics.
“We can use [cells] in a combinatorial way,” Solé says. “Potentially we can generate thousands of different circuits and so implement thousands of different functions.”
The researchers with the Universitat Pompeu Fabra (Barcelona, Spain) published their results on December 8, 2010 in the digital version of Nature. The work was a collaboration between a UPF theoretical biology group, the Complex Systems Laboratory headed by Solé, and a UPF experimental biology group, the Cell Signaling Unit led by Francesc Posas.
Solé is the corresponding author.
Read the UPF news release (December 17, 2010)
Read the Nature paper (December 8, 2010)
Read the Chemical & Engineering News article (December 13, 2010)