Navigation Links
A genetic device performs DNA diagnosis

Scientists hope that one day in the distant future, miniature, medically-savvy computers will roam our bodies, detecting early-stage diseases and treating them on the spot by releasing a suitable drug, without any outside help. To make this vision a reality, computers must be sufficiently small to fit into body cells. Moreover, they must be able to "talk" to various cellular systems. These challenges can be best addressed by creating computers based on biological molecules such as DNA or proteins. The idea is far from outrageous; after all, biological organisms are capable of receiving and processing information, and of responding accordingly, in a way that resembles a computer.

Researchers at the Weizmann Institute of Science have recently made an important step in this direction: They have succeeded in creating a genetic device that operates independently in bacterial cells. The device has been programmed to identify certain parameters and mount an appropriate response.

The device searches for transcription factors - proteins that control the expression of genes in the cell. A malfunction of these molecules can disrupt gene expression. In cancer cells, for example, the transcription factors regulating cell growth and division do not function properly, leading to increased cell division and the formation of a tumor. The device, composed of a DNA sequence inserted into a bacterium, performs a "roll call" of transcription factors. If the results match preprogrammed parameters, it responds by creating a protein that emits green light - supplying a visible sign of a "positive" diagnosis. In follow-up research, the scientists - Prof. Ehud Shapiro and Dr. Tom Ran of the Biological Chemistry and Computer Science, and Applied Mathematics Departments - plan to replace the light-emitting protein with one that will affect the cell's fate, for example, a protein that can cause the cell to commit suicide. In this manner, the device will cause only "positively" diagnosed cells to self-destruct.

In the present study, published in Nature's Scientific Reports, the researchers first created a device that functioned like what is known in computing as a NOR logical gate: It was programmed to check for the presence of two transcription factors and respond by emitting a green light only if both were missing. When the scientists inserted the device into four types of genetically engineered bacteria - those making both transcription factors, those making none of the transcription factors, and two types making one of the transcription factors each - only the appropriate bacteria shone green. Next, the research team - which also included graduate students Yehonatan Douek and Lilach Milo - created more complex genetic devices, corresponding to additional logical gates.

Following the success of the study in bacterial cells, the researchers are planning to test ways of recruiting such bacteria as an efficient system to be conveniently inserted into the human body for medical purposes (which shouldn't be a problem; recent research reveals there are already 10 times more bacterial cells in the human body than human cells). Yet another research goal is to operate a similar system inside human cells, which are much more complex than bacteria.


Contact: Yivsam Azgad
Weizmann Institute of Science

Related biology news :

1. Nearby chimpanzee populations show much greater genetic diversity than distant human populations
2. Will a genetic mutation cause trouble? Ask Spliceman
3. UC Santa Barbara researchers discover genetic link between visual pathways of hydras and humans
4. Perception and preference may have genetic link to obesity
5. A foot in the door to genetic information
6. Genetic survey of endangered Antarctic blue whales shows surprising diversity
7. Epigenetic signatures direct the repair potential of reprogrammed cells
8. Epigenetics and epidemiology -- hip, hype and science
9. Genetic variation in East Asians found to explain resistance to cancer drugs
10. First complete full genetic map of promising energy crop
11. Genetic research develops tools for studying diseases, improving regenerative treatment
Post Your Comments:
(Date:10/29/2015)... ANN ARBOR, Mich. , Oct. 29, 2015 ... with Eurofins Genomics for U.S. distribution of its ... DNA-seq kit and Rubicon,s new ThruPLEX Plasma-seq ... DNA to enable the preparation of NGS libraries ... in plasma for diagnostic and prognostic applications in ...
(Date:10/29/2015)... , Oct. 29, 2015 Today, ... a partnership with 2XU, a global leader in ... a smart hat with advanced bio-sensing technology. The ... athletes to monitor key biometrics to improve overall ... partnership, the two companies will bring together the most ...
(Date:10/27/2015)... Oct. 27, 2015 Synaptics Inc. (NASDAQ: SYNA ... that Google has adopted the Synaptics ® ClearPad ... to power its newest flagship smartphones, the Nexus 5X ... --> --> Synaptics ... provide strategic collaboration in the joint development of next ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:11/25/2015)... 25, 2015 Studies reveal the ... plaque and pave the way for more effective treatment for ...     --> --> ... health problems in cats, yet relatively little was understood about ... studies have been conducted by researchers from the WALTHAM Centre ...
(Date:11/25/2015)... , Nov. 25, 2015 Orexigen® Therapeutics, Inc. ... participate in a fireside chat discussion at the Piper ... York . The discussion is scheduled for Wednesday, ... .  A replay will be available for ... Stilwell  , Julie NormartVP, Corporate Communications and Business ...
(Date:11/24/2015)... , Nov. 24, 2015 Cepheid (NASDAQ: ... be speaking at the following conference, and invited investors ... York, NY      Tuesday, December 1, 2015 at ... York, NY      Tuesday, December 1, 2015 at ... Healthcare Conference, New York, NY ...
(Date:11/24/2015)... CITY , Nov. 24, 2015 /PRNewswire/ - Aeterna ... request of IIROC on behalf of the Toronto Stock ... news release there are no corporate developments that would ... --> --> About ... . --> Aeterna Zentaris is ...
Breaking Biology Technology: