Engineering Bacterial Cells to Form Living Artificial Neural Circuits

Transforming bacteria cells into living artificial neuronal circuits

Technion scientists and MIT researchers collaborated on the development of biocomputers, cells that are engineered to perform complex functions.

Researchers and graduate students from Technion, Israel Institute of Technology Professor Ramez David’s Laboratory for Synthetic Biology & Bioelectronics collaborated with Professor Ron Weiss of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in order to create genetic devices that perform computations similar to artificial neural circuits. Their results have been published recently in Nature Communications.

The genetic material is inserted in the bacterial cells as a plasmid, a relatively small DNA molecule which remains separate from \”natural\” bacteria genome. Plasmids are also found in nature and have many different functions. The group of researchers designed the genetic sequence on the plasmid to act as a computer or, more precisely, an artificial neural network. The plasmid’s genes were programmed to activate and deactivate each other in response to external stimuli.