The transistor revolutionized electronics and computing. Now, researchers have made a biological transistor from DNA that could be used to create living computers.
A transistor is a device that controls the flow of electrons in an electrical circuit, which acts as an on-off switch. Similarly, the biological transistor — termed a transcriptor — controls the flow of an enzyme as it moves along a strand of DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid). These cellular building blocks could be used to do anything from monitoring their environment to turning processes on and off in the cells. The findings were reported today (March 28) in the journal Science.
“Transcriptors are the key component behind amplifying genetic logic,” lead author Jerome Bonnet, a bioengineer at Stanford University, said in a statement. On their own, these devices do not represent a computer, but they allow for logical operations, such as “if this-then that” commands, one of three basic functions of computers (the other two being storing and transmitting information).