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Bringing Computing Elements to a New Bacterium


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While it may sound too weird to be real, many people are working on organic computers that use bacteria and single-cell organisms to process information. Typically the research in this area uses a few model bacteria, like E. coli, which are very well understood. Researchers at MIT however, have successfully built basic computing elements with a different bacterium found in the human gut.

Bacteroides thetaiotaomicron is already found in many people and at levels large enough that a stable colony could be formed. What the researchers have done is program the gene expression within the bacteria to give it sensors. These sensors can then trigger certain genes to turn on or off, making it possible to monitor for certain events, such as bleeding in the stomach or inflammation. It could potentially lead to a means to and treat illnesses such as colon cancer and immune disorders.

So far the researchers have demonstrated the programmed bacteria can function within mice and now they plan to expand the potential applications for this and other gut bacteria. It is possible this research could lead to programmed microbes in other parts of the body.

Source: MIT

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