Researchers have recently made significant breakthroughs in engineering bacteria to act as a kind of basic circuit. Although at the moment, these organic devices are nothing more than simple on/off switches, there is hope that such detailed control of cell behavior could be eventually used in more robust applications. Ars Technica reports:
For the past several years, researchers have been creating living logic gates, using the genetic on and off switches we’ve discovered in the biochemical world to create simple logical functions. But these systems typically run into a wall: we can only stuff so many functions into a single bacterium before the noisy processes within the cell start to interfere with their function, causing unpredictable results. Now, researchers have avoided this problem by getting small populations of bacteria to produce soluble factors that act as circuit wires. Arranged appropriately, these bacteria can perform any possible logical function.