Genetic code harnessed as digital circuitry

Biologically based circuit NOR gate
An artist’s conception shows connections between biologically based CRISPR-dCas9 NOR gates. (University of Washington Graphic)

Researchers from the University of Washington have taken advantage of synthetic biology to turn yeast cells into building blocks for digital information processing.

The experiment, described today in Nature Communications, turned the cells’ genetic code into NOR logic gates suitable for biologically based circuitry.

In digital circuitry that deals with ones and zeros, a NOR gate will produce a “1” output only if both inputs are “0.” To adapt yeast cells for digital processing, the UW team used a gene-editing method called CRISPR-Cas9 to replicate the interactions of ones and zeros with DNA and RNA molecules.

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By Alan Boyle

Mastermind of Cosmic Log, contributor to GeekWire and Universe Today, author of "The Case for Pluto: How a Little Planet Made a Big Difference," past president of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing.

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