Believe it or not living cells are capable of performing complex computations over the environmental signals received by them. These also include analog signals hidden in human voices or vision and digital calculations based on a number of switch on/off processes like starting its own death. Till now, the artificial biological systems were centered only on processing of analog and digital signals. A team of MIT engineers recently aimed at expanding the applications of this process and worked on the strategy to process both digital and analog computations in vivo. The concluding gene circuits can easily carry out the most complex computations.
When the team measured analog input like the chemical one related to a disease, the artificial circuit produces an output like the drug that treats diseases in case, the level needs to be within the required range. Comparators used in this process are electrical equipment that have dual analog inputs, then a digital signal is produced that indicates the higher range of analog signal.Just like the comparator, here too the analog input signals from the synthetic equipment are turned into a digital output.
As per Timothy Lu, the lead researcher of this project and an associate professor of computer and electrical engineering, “Most of the work in synthetic biology has focused on the digital approach, because [digital systems]are much easier to program. Digital is basically a way of computing in which you get intelligence out of very simple parts because each part only does a very simple thing. But when you put them all together, you get something that is very smart. However that requires you to be able to put many of these parts together, and the challenge is biology, at least currently, is that you can’t assemble billions of transistors like you can on a piece of silicon.”
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