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New genetic circuits created using genes found in Salmonella  (Source: MIT)
This circuit allows cells to find the right microenvironment through environmental changes like glucose, pH, temperature and osmolarity

A team of researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) has developed the most intricate synthetic biology circuit to date.
Synthetic biology circuits are used to perform functions within cells, such as detecting changing environmental factors like temperature. The problem is that the components in a cell are all mashed together, and creating a complex biological circuit requires that genetic components don't interfere with one another. In other words, researchers don't want proteins that control one part of their synthetic circuit to mess with other parts of the circuit. 
To get around this, the team created a synthetic circuit that doesn't interfere with other circuits. They did this by studying the bacterium that causes salmonella, which has a cellular pathway that monitors and controls proteins in human cells. The team then studied 60 other versions of this pathway in other bacteria, and learned that most of the proteins were different enough to not interfere with one another. Clearly, the answer was to expand the number of possible circuits to create components that won't mess with each other. 
When expanding the number of circuits, the team then discovered that there was a small amount of "crosstalk" between some circuit components, so this had to be reduced for the complex circuit to work. This was achieved through directed evolution, which is a trial-and-error process that involves the mutation of a gene to create thousands like it and testing them for a desired trait. The best of these genes continue testing until the gene is perfected. 
The end result is the most complex synthetic biology circuit that uses four sensors for different molecules. It is layered so that inputs and outputs are proteins that control the next circuit, and they're capable of monitoring the cell's changing environment. 
"If a cell needs to find the right microenvironment -- glucose, pH, temperature and osmolarity -- individually they're not very specific, but getting all four of those things really narrows it down," said Christopher Voigt, study author and associate professor of biological engineering at MIT. 

Source: MIT

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Morality police
By AssBall on 10/10/2012 10:24:41 PM , Rating: 2
This is great stuff. If we can progress this kind of biotech far enough, like to grow an organic supercomputer, when will the "you can't enslave that, it is a living creature" types and lobbiests start regulating it?

RE: Morality police
By Newspapercrane on 10/10/2012 10:27:29 PM , Rating: 2
Shortly before it becomes self-aware.

RE: Morality police
By inperfectdarkness on 10/11/2012 3:29:14 AM , Rating: 3
...and is called skynet.

RE: Morality police
By Visual on 10/11/2012 7:08:36 AM , Rating: 2
.. or more likely, Fred... it is biological, after all.

RE: Morality police
By Flunk on 10/11/2012 7:49:15 AM , Rating: 2
I think you're overlooking the insanity that is PETA they could very well start protesting tomorrow. Logic means nothing to them.

RE: Morality police
By stusanagain on 10/11/2012 11:31:51 AM , Rating: 2
Define "living". In the same vein as the argument "A chicken is an egg's way of making another egg", is a human a synthetic gene complex's way of making another synthetic gene complex? Anyway, only PETA is making the "we should not enslave another living creature" argument.

On the other hand, if it gains sentience we'll be obligated to kill it. Xenophobic priorities, ya know. We're the top of the brain pyramid in this corner of the universe.

RE: Morality police
By danjw1 on 10/11/2012 12:16:10 PM , Rating: 2
Man has "enslaved" animals for a long time. Rescue dogs, police dogs, military dogs, plow horses, mine hunting dolphins, circus animals you name it we have probably done it. So other the PETA, who do you expect to complain?

“Then they pop up and say ‘Hello, surprise! Give us your money or we will shut you down!' Screw them. Seriously, screw them. You can quote me on that.” -- Newegg Chief Legal Officer Lee Cheng referencing patent trolls

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