Monday March 25, 2019

Just in! Like Computer Software, Scientists can now Programme Cells in your Body to Fight Diseases!

Scientists found that RNA which is produced abundantly by humans, plants and animals can be genetically engineered to allow scientists to programme cells with specific commands

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Scientists have found that cells can be programmed with pre-defined RNA commands, in the manner of a computer's microprocessor VOA

London, September 19, 2017 : A new technique can help programme cells like a computer to fight cancer, influenza, and other serious conditions, suggests new research.

A common molecule — ribonucleic acid (RNA), which is produced abundantly by humans, plants and animals — can be genetically engineered to allow scientists to programme cells, said the study published in the journal Nucleic Acids Research.

RNAs carry information between protein and DNA in cells, and the research proved that these molecules can be produced and organised into tailor-made sequences of commands — similar to codes for computer software — which feed specific instructions into cells, programming them to do what we want.

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Cells have the capacity to process and respond to instructions and codes inputted into their main system, said lead researcher Alfonso Jaramillo, Professor at University of Warwick in Britain.

Similar to software running on a computer, or apps on a mobile device, many different RNA sequences could be created to empower cells with a ‘Virtual Machine’, able to interpret a universal RNA language, and to perform specific actions to address different diseases or problems, the study said.

This will allow a novel type of personalised and efficient healthcare, allowing us to ‘download’ a sequence of actions into cells, instructing them to execute complex decisions encoded in the RNA.

The researchers made their invention by first modelling all possible RNA sequence interactions on a computer, and then constructing the DNA encoding the optimal RNA designs, to be validated on bacteria cells in the laboratory.

After inducing the bacterial cells to produce the genetically engineered RNA sequences, the researchers observed that they had altered the gene expression of the cells according to the RNA programme — demonstrating that cells can be programmed with pre-defined RNA commands, in the manner of a computer’s microprocessor.

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“The capabilities of RNA molecules to interact in a predictable manner, and with alternative conformations, has allowed us to engineer networks of molecular switches that could be made to process arbitrary orders encoded in RNA,” Jaramillo said.

As well as fighting disease and injury in humans, scientists could harness this technique to control plant cells and reverse environmental and agricultural issues, making plants more resilient to disease and pests.

“Throughout last year, my group has been developing methodologies to enable RNA sensing the environment, perform arithmetic computations and control gene expression without relying on proteins, which makes the system universal across all living kingdoms,” Jaramillo said.

“The cells could read the RNA ‘software’ to perform the encoded tasks, which could make the cells detect abnormal states, infections, or trigger developmental programmes,” he added.  (IANS)

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Novel Device by Microsoft Can Store Digital Info as DNA

Further, the team also developed techniques to search for and retrieve only images that contain an apple or a green bicycle — using the molecules themselves and without having to convert the files back into a digital format

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A man walks past a Microsoft sign set up for the Microsoft BUILD conference at Moscone Center in San Francisco, April 28, 2015. VOA

Tech major Microsoft has successfully developed an end-to-end automated DNA storage device that can translate digital information into DNA and back to bits, the company said in a blog post.

The fully automated system to store and retrieve data in manufactured DNA is a key step in moving the technology out of the research lab and into commercial datacenters.

The novel system, developed in partnership with University of Washington, translated “HELLO” into DNA and converted it back to digital data in just 21 hours, reported the paper published in Nature Scientific Reports journal.

“Our ultimate goal is to put a system into production that, to the end user, looks very much like any other cloud storage service — bits are sent to a datacenter and stored there and then they just appear when the customer wants them,” Karin Strauss, principal researcher at Microsoft, wrote in the post on Thursday.

“To do that, we needed to prove that this is practical from an automation perspective,” Strauss added.

The system has so far stored one gigabyte of data in DNA, which includes cat photographs, great literary works, pop videos as well as archival recordings in DNA, which could be retrieved without errors, the researchers said.

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FILE – Microsoft Corp. signage is seen outside the Microsoft Visitor Center in Redmond, Washington, July 3, 2014. VOA

The automated DNA data storage system uses software that converts the ones and zeros of digital data into the As, Ts, Cs and Gs that make up the building blocks of DNA.

Then it uses cheap lab equipments to flow the necessary liquids and chemicals into a synthesiser that builds manufactured snippets of DNA and to push them into a storage vessel.

When the system needs to retrieve the information, it adds other chemicals to properly prepare the DNA and uses microfluidic pumps to push the liquids into other parts of the system that “read” the DNA sequences and convert it back to information that a computer can understand.

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Information is stored in synthetic DNA molecules created in a lab, not DNA from humans or other living things, and can be encrypted before it is sent to the system.

Further, the team also developed techniques to search for and retrieve only images that contain an apple or a green bicycle — using the molecules themselves and without having to convert the files back into a digital format.

“We are definitely seeing a new kind of computer system being born here where you are using molecules to store data and electronics for control and processing. Putting them together holds some really interesting possibilities for the future,” said Luis Ceze, Professor at the varsity. (IANS)