Biotech Updates

Researchers Develop Programming Language for Living Cells

April 6, 2016

A new programming language, analogous to computer code, has been written that gives researchers the tools to create biological circuits inside living cells.

At the moment, the circuits are simple, but more advanced versions could reprogram cells to detect cancer and then produce a drug to kill it on the spot, or a bacterium could be programmed to help lactose intolerant people digest lactose. Even plants could benefit. They could contain a bacterium that produces insecticide when they sense they're being nibbled on.

Christopher Voigt, an MIT professor of biological engineering, and colleagues at Boston University and the National Institute of Standards and Technology have built biological circuits capable of measuring light, temperature, acidity, and other environmental conditions such as oxygen level or glucose.

"It is literally a programming language for bacteria," says Voigt. "You use a text-based language, just like you're programming a computer. Then you take that text and you compile it and it turns it into a DNA sequence that you put into the cell, and the circuit runs inside the cell."

With the new programming language, scientists now have a standard method for fashioning these circuits, which means they can create them quickly.

For more information, read the article on Science.