Scientists say they’ve gene-hacked a human cell, using CRISPR tech to turn it into a tiny biological computer complete with the cellular analog of dual core processors.
The squishy little CPUs could eventually lead to powerful computers housed entirely within a cell, according to New Atlas, that would detect and treat diseases.
The cellular computers, described in research published in the journal PNAS this month, mimic the normal process by which organisms turn genetic information into the proteins that carry out specific tasks within a cell.
The computer is programmed to take in specific genetic codes and perform computations that result in the production of a particular protein. Except instead of simply following the DNA’s genetic code as a cell does, the computer receives two inputs and combines them, calculating the correct protein to churn out.
The researchers behind the cellular computers say that they could be programmed to scan for certain biomarkers signifying the presence of a disease and, if all the right conditions are met, mass produce molecules or proteins that could help treat it, according to New Atlas.
“Imagine a microtissue with billions of cells, each equipped with its own dual-core processor,” MIT researcher Martin Fussenegger told New Atlas. “Such ‘computational organs’ could theoretically attain computing power that far outstrips that of a digital supercomputer – and using just a fraction of the energy.”