The increasingly ambiguous divide between man and machine just got blurred that much more with Stanford’s recent announcement: scientists have successfully created the first truly biological transistor made entirely out of genetic material.
Considering that transistors are essentially the foundation of modern electronics, it certainly seems fitting that genetically engineered versions of our very own building blocks, DNA and RNA, make up the newly dubbed “transcriptor”. By embedding a microscopic portion of a DNA molecule inside a living cell, researchers were able to control the flow of RNA, which translates DNA’s instructions to the cell. Just like a transistor regulates electrical currents, the researcher-controlled transcriptor can essentially direct an en entire living cell.
On a practical level, this means theoretically being able to command cancerous cells to stop multiplying, monitor general health, and create drugs in response to the presence of certain enzymes. Of course, the transistor is only part of the equation, and it may still be some time before we see a complete human computer walking around. Still, the potential doors this development just opened truly are incredible to imagine. [The Independent]