Logic gates allow bacteria to work like computers

Logic gates, similar to those that form the basis of silicon computing, can now be inserted into bacteria via genetic engineering, making it possible to manipulate bacteria to perform complicated tasks. This finding will ultimately enable cells to be programmed with more intricate functions, allowing cells to produce pharmaceuticals, materials, and industrial chemicals. The technique also has potential for application in agriculture. Christopher Voigt, PhD, synthetic biologist and UCSF School of Pharmacy faculty member, is senior author of the research paper that reveals these findings in the online edition of Nature, December 8, 2010.

“We think of electronic currents as doing computation, but any substrate can act like a computer, including gears, pipes of water, and cells,” said Voigt.

The lead author of the paper is Alvin Tamsir, a PhD student in UCSF’s tetrad graduate program. Jeffrey J. Tabor, PhD, in the UCSF School of Pharmacy, is a co-author.

Research paper

Robust multicellular computing using genetically encoded NOR gates and chemical 'wires'


UCSF team develops "logic gates" to program bacteria as computers

About the School: The UCSF School of Pharmacy is a premier graduate-level academic organization dedicated to improving health through precise therapeutics. It succeeds through innovative research, by educating PharmD health professional and PhD science students, and by caring for the therapeutics needs of patients while exploring innovative new models of patient care. The School was founded in 1872 as the first pharmacy school in the American West. It is an integral part of UC San Francisco, a leading university dedicated to promoting health worldwide.