Stanford Creates "Bi-Fi" Biological Cellular Network
October 1, 2012 7:16 PM
M13 is used to deliver messages between cells
The Bi-Fi network is a new form of cellular communication that could eventually lead to tissue regeneration
Stanford University scientists have developed a new way for
cells to communicate
in a network they're calling "Bi-Fi" -- or a biological Internet.
The secret behind the new Bi-Fi network is a virus called M13. M13 prepares genetic messgaes within a host and sends them out to other cells without harming them. More specifically, M13 makes itself comfortable within a host, uses DNA strands to package genetic messages and wraps the whole package in proteins that it creates. These messages are then sent to other cells, where the outer protein layer allows the message to "infect" the receiving cells. The DNA message is then released inside.
The Stanford team focused on this form of "wireless" communication because it's stronger and more complex than other methods of cell communication, such as chemical signals. Chemical communication is limited in complexity and power because cells take on messager and message roles that cannot be separated.
But in the M13 communication system, the message and messenger are separated to form the wireless communication. This allows cells to deliver and receive messages more easily, such as move, grow, stop growing, produce insulin, etc.
Not only can
messages be delivered more easily
via the Bi-Fi network, but the messages are also more complex because M13 can package larger DNA strands with more base pairs than normal cellular communication methods like chemical signals. According to the Stanford researchers, an M13 can package a DNA strand with as many as 40,000 base pairs, which act as the data's building blocks.
To top it all off, the research team was able to broadcast the communication between cells at a distance of 7 centimeters with gelatin between the cells.
This type of Bi-Fi communication system could eventually be used to create complex medications, fuels, etc. It could also even lead to tissue regeneration via complex programming of cellular systems.
"Effectively, we've separated the message from the channel," said Monica Ortiz, study leader and a doctoral candidate in engineering at Stanford. "We can now send any DNA message we want to specific cells within a complex microbial community."
"A lot of people pay zero for the cellphone ... That's what it's worth." -- Apple Chief Operating Officer Timothy Cook
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