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MIT, BU engineer cellular circuits that count events
Date:5/28/2009

This circuit could in theory go up to 100 steps (the number of different invertases that have been identified). Because it tracks a specific sequence of stimuli, such a counter could be useful for studying the unfolding of events that occur during embryonic development, said Lu.

Other potential applications include programming cells to act as environmental sensors for pollutants such as arsenic. Engineers would also be able to specify the length of time an input needs to be present to be counted, and the length of time that can fall between two inputs so they are counted as two events instead of one.

They could also design the cells to die after a certain number of cell divisions or night-day cycles.

"There's a lot of concern about engineered organisms if you put them in the environment, what will happen?" said Collins, who is also a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator. These counters "could serve as a programmed expiration date for engineered organisms."


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Contact: Elizabeth Thomson
thomson@mit.edu
617-258-5402
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Source:Eurekalert

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