Science 3 min read

Scientists Build Dual-Core Computers Inside Human Cells Using CRISPR

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Scientists have treated various diseases, ranging from lethal lung diseases to genetic disorders, using the CRISPR gene-editing system.

However, the technology has loads of other uses in synthetic biology too. For example, it can be used to build a dual-core processor in the human cell.

Sounds unbelievable, right?

Well, tell that to the researchers at ETH Zurich, who just used CRISPR to build a functional biocomputer inside the human cell.

Think of the living organism as a computer, with the cells acting as logic gates. It takes input from the outside world, processes the information, and responds with a specific metabolic process.

Lead researcher of the project; Martin Fussenegger said; 

“The human body itself is a large computer. Its metabolism has drawn on the computing power of trillions of cells since time immemorial.”

Although tapping into the computing power of the trillions of cells has been a primary goal of synthetic biology, researchers have found the quest a bit challenging, until now.

Slotting Dual-Core Processors into Human Cells

A team of researchers at the ETH Zurich discovered that by modifying the CRISPR gene-editing tool, they could slot dual-core processors into the human cells.

In an ideal process, the researchers would target specific DNA segments using guide RNA sequences, before making precise edits. But that wasn’t what happened in this project.

Instead, the team created a unique version of the Cas9 enzyme to act as a processor. Here is how it works.

First, the unique Cas9 reads the guide RNA as inputs. Then, it responds by expressing a specific gene, which in turn creates output in the form of particular proteins.

According to New Atlas, the processors act like digital half adders. In other words, the processors can receive two inputs and combine them to produce the correct amount of protein.

Like the traditional processor, a single core is never enough. So, the researchers squeezed a second processor core into one cell, to increase the computing power.

So, what are the potential benefits of having a dual-core processor computer in your cell? Two words: targeted medicine.

The researchers explained – in the PNAS publication – that cellular computers could be programmed to scan for biomarkers. As such, it becomes easy not only note the presence of diseases, but also mass produces enough proteins to treat it.

Fussenegger told New Atlas; 

“Imagine a microtissue with billions of cells, each equipped with its dual-core processor.”

According to the MIT researcher, with just a fraction of energy, such a “computational organ” could theoretically become more powerful than a supercomputer.

Read More: Could CRISPR Gene Editing Help Cure Mental Illness?

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Sumbo Bello

Sumbo Bello is a creative writer who enjoys creating data-driven content for news sites. In his spare time, he plays basketball and listens to Coldplay.

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