Researchers from the Pasteur Institute and Inria, with researchers from the CNRS and Paris Diderot University, and from the Institute of Science and Technology (IST) in Austria, have published two articles in Nature Communications about computer control of cellular processes. Hybrid experimental platforms combining microscopes and software are enabling researchers to interface living cells with control algorithms in real time. The two articles illustrate that these solutions make it possible to create new and easily reprogrammable behaviours of cell populations. This external control of living tissue would then become a formidable research tool for acquiring a detailed understanding of the biological role of certain proteins and for optimising bio-production processes.
The goal of synthetic biology, which combines biology with engineering, is to (re)program cells in order to improve their performance in a specific task, or so that they can efficiently perform a new task. One of the challenges in this discipline is thus to bypass the limitations of existing biological systems. For example, it is hard to obtain the same gene expression in different cells, even if they are grown in the same medium. Thanks to these cutting-edge technologies, the researchers are able to provide homogeneous control of a cellular process over a very long period.
Researchers from the Pasteur Institute andInria, the CNRS andParis Diderot University, and the IST Austria have developed two platforms connecting a microscope to a computer. The cells are placed in a microfluidic device in which the chemical environment can be varied or the cells can be exposed to light stimulations. A computer program decides which modifications are to be made in the chemical or light environment according to the cells’ observed behaviour and the objective of the experiment. The computer also manages the acquisition of images by the microscope and their analysis, to quantify the cellular responses in real-time.
In the first article, the researchers from the InBio – Experimental and computational methods for modelling cellular processes unit (Pasteur Institute / Inria) and from two groups at IST Austria, the Systems and Synthetic Biology of Genetic Networks group, headed by C?lin C. Guet, and the Biophysics and Neuroscience group, headed by Gašper Tka?ik, have used optogenetics to activate the expression of a gene by exposing cells to light. A fluorescent protein is used to measure the amount of produced protein. A controller, using a model of the system, can then in real-time decide which dynamic disturbances to apply based on the expected future behaviour of the cells. Thanks to the computer programs created by the researchers, they can control each cell individually in various ways, or create virtual communication between several cells, which circulate messages in an easily reconfigurable order. “We have managed to build a platform allowing us to design circuits that are partially biological and partially virtual. The virtual parts of these circuits can be arbitrarily modified to quickly create and explore cellular behaviors, even beyond what is biologically possible” explains Jakob Ruess, co-first author of the first article.
In the second article , Grégory Batt, head of the InBio unit and co-last author with Pascal Hersen (CNRS) of the Laboratoire Matière et systèmes complexes (CNRS/ Paris Diderot University, explains how they managed to place a cellular system in an unstable configuration: “We designed a computer program which aims to force the cells to take binary decisions randomly. To do this, the cells are driven to a region of instability – like climbers on a mountain ridge line – and they are then left to evolve freely towards one of the two possible stable configurations. Unexpectedly, we observed that a given stimulation, if correctly chosen, was capable of taking groups of different cells to the region of instability and keeping them there. These results could help gaining a clearer understanding of how cell populations collectively take robust decisions without individual coordination”.
The Latest on: Computerised biology
- Elon Musk's Brain-Computer Interface Company Neuralink Has Money and Buzz, But Hurdles Tooon December 5, 2020 at 10:01 am
Scientists say Elon Musk’s work to put a computer chip in your brain would be his greatest feat yet, surpassing even the cars of Tesla and rockets of SpaceX.
- What are the Prerequisites for a Master’s in Computer Science?on December 4, 2020 at 10:55 am
Computer science is the future,” says Ian Gorton, PhD and director of the computer science programs at Northeastern University—Seattle. “There are an enormous amount of challenging and exciting ...
- Clare Boone ’23: A biology major finding her niche in legal advocacy and racial justiceon December 3, 2020 at 8:08 pm
Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Clare Boone ’23 has cycled through five different apartments in three different states. The constant moving has yet to slow her down. For the past eight ...
- AI untangles one of biology's great challengeson December 2, 2020 at 4:00 pm
For decades scientists have been trying to figure out how to swiftly predict the twisting, tangled shape of proteins -- and from there unravel a greater understanding of the machinery of life itself.
- AI makes huge progress predicting how proteins fold – one of biology’s greatest challenges – promising rapid drug developmenton December 2, 2020 at 5:28 am
Scientists in an artificial intelligence lab have made a breakthrough in solving the problem of how proteins fold into their final three-dimensional shape. The work could speed up creation of drugs.
- Biology’s ‘holy grail’ will unlock new treatments to fight diseaseon November 30, 2020 at 9:32 pm
One of the greatest challenges in modern biology has been largely solved by British researchers who have developed a method to visualise the proteins that power the biological processes in our bodies.
- DeepMind’s protein-folding AI has solved a 50-year-old grand challenge of biologyon November 30, 2020 at 7:41 am
DeepMind has already notched up a streak of wins, showcasing AIs that have learned to play a variety of complex games with superhuman skill, from Go and StarCraft to Atari’s entire back catalogue. But ...
- Biology Prof. Lue, Visionary in Life Sciences Pedagogy, Dies at 56on November 30, 2020 at 4:17 am
Faculty and administrators from across the University said Lue left an indelible mark wherever he went. He fought relentlessly to ensure that all students could access a high-quality education, ...
- As a Wiser World Looks to Make a Strong Sustainable Recovery From COVID-19, Synthetic Biology to Receive New Opportunities for Growthon November 24, 2020 at 8:32 am
Stock quotes by finanzen.net New York, Nov. 24, 2020 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Reportlinker.com announces the release of the report "Global Synthetic Biology Industry" - With humans continuing their ...
- Eureka: A family of computer scientists developed a blueprint for machine consciousnesson November 23, 2020 at 11:23 am
Renowned researchers Manuel Blum and Lenore Blum have devoted their entire lives to the study of computer science with a particular focus on consciousness. They’ve authored dozens of papers and taught ...
via Google News and Bing News