Most important, the entire construction of the device was guided by the mathematical model that the researchers developed.
Think of how engineers build bridges, says Silver. They design quantitative models to help them understand what sorts of pressure and weight the bridge can withstand, and then use these equations to improve the actual physical model. We really did the same thing. In fact, our mathematical model not only predicted exactly how our memory loop would work, but it informed how we synthesized the genes.
For synthetic biology, this kind of specificity is crucial. If we ever want to create biological black boxes, that is, gene-based circuits like this one that you can plug into a cell and have it perform a specified task, we need levels of mathematical precision as exact as the kind that go into creating computer chips, she adds.
The researchers are now working to scale-up the memory device into a larger, more complex circuit, one that can, for example, respond to DNA damage in cells.
One day wed like to have a comprehensive library of these so-called black boxes, says Drubin. In the same way you take a component off the shelf and plug it into a circuit and get a predicted reaction, thats what wed one day like to do in cells.
|Contact: David Cameron|
Harvard Medical School