A new paper suggests that we would be able to compute with the help of bacteria in the future. Yes, you read it right. With more knowledge and efforts, biology can change our hardware from silicon to bacteria.
Researchers Raphael Kim and Stefan Poslad from Queen Mary University (London, UK) explain in their paper how the commonly found bacterium E.coli could work just like a Raspberry Pi.
Programming such organic “devices” is not going to be easy but once we learn a bit more on how to work with DNA, our workstations will start looking more like a biology lab.
The researchers have also explained how this transition will take place. At present, tools and techniques to run small-scale experiments with micro-organisms are readily available to the general masses.
Through various channels, you can buy maker spaces or supportive kits to carry out such experiments. “Bacteria, especially E.coli, make an ideal tool for biohacking projects, given that they are easy to acquire, culture, and maintain.”
But the important question is whether microbes are safe to handle?
The industry standard strain K-12 E.coli which are used in Amino lab, are relatively safe to handle. They have been biologically engineered to be non-pathogenic and it doesn’t spread outside of the laboratory environment.
One can easily purchase K-12 strain in the U.S and most parts of Europe. However, the starter kits that are available in the market right now seem to have instructive rather than useful outcomes. For instance, the Engineer it Kit by Amino Labs produces E.coli that can create proteins of different colors.
Now that looks like the “hello world” of the biotech IoT world. But what next?
To that end, the paper concludes:
“Although highly-engineered bacteria may provide efficient communication systems, ultimately, they are biological entities, which can produce unexpected outcomes (e.g. mutations). All in all, whilst the use of bacteria in IoT and HCI offer exciting opportunities, they also present fresh ethical challenges, which provide extra paths for discourse.”