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US boffins create bacterial computer

Multiplication inherent
Fri Jul 24 2009, 12:42

US BOFFINS have emerged from their smoke-filled labs with a bacterial computer which they say can solve complicated maths problems.

According to BioMed Central's open access Journal of Biological Engineering (which we subscribe to for the spot-the-amoeba competition), the boffins have proved that it is possible to get some serious number crunching done within living cells. Well not on a Friday afternoon obviously.

A research team made up of four faculty members and 15 undergraduate students from the biology and mathematics departments at Missouri Western State University and Davidson College in North Carolina, engineered the DNA of escherichia coli bacteria.

The bacteria were able to solve a classic mathematical problem known as the Hamiltonian Path Problem by finding a Hamiltonian path in a three-node graph without stopping for a breather.

For those who came in late, the Hamiltonian Path Problem asks whether there is a route in a network from a beginning node to an ending node, visiting each node exactly once.

Jordan Baumgardner, recent graduate of Missouri Western Uni and first author of the research paper, said that the research provides an example of how powerful and dynamic synthetic biology can be.

Once the bacteria successfully solved the problem they fluoresced red and green and created yellow colonies.

This must be the first computer that breeds if it gets an equation right. µ



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