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FPGA and Electronic Components Used in Programming Living Cells

Posted by Kelsey Hails

Aug 19, 2016 9:00:00 AM

 MIT has developed a biological “programming language” that allows genetic engineers to create biological circuits and “hack” the genomes of living cells using electronic components. These new cells have DNA-encoded circuits that take on new functions when programmed into the “hacked” organisms.



 (Image source)


It works in a similar way to computer programming, using a text-based language with electronic components. The programming text is converted into a DNA sequence. Once it is inserted, the circuit runs inside the cell. So far, biological circuits can respond to up to three inputs in various ways. This new method of genetic engineering allows for DNA circuits to be created in days instead of years.


Cell programming language is being tested in the medical technology and biological computing industries. Some potential uses could be programming bacteria to detect harmful chemicals and cancer in the human body, keep insects away from plants, help break down and digest lactose, and prevent yeast bacteria from creating harmful byproducts.


Click here to watch a TED Talk video on some possible applications of this technology.


 It is possible that the researchers might have written their design for FPGA using Verilog. FPGA stands for "Field Programmable Gate Array." As you may already know, FPGA chips have a huge array of gates which can be programmed and reconfigured any time anywhere. The designers may choose to use FPGA, because it can be reprogrammed more than once.




Scientists adapted the programming language to the anatomy of cells, making elements that can be inserted into bacteria genomes. Compared to regular genetic engineering, the cell programming language is easy to use and customize. Currently the technology is designed for the E. coli genome, but researchers are trying to design a code that could be translated to work with other organisms’ genomes.


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*EarthTron, LLC is in no way affiliated, authorized, maintained, sponsored, endorsed by MIT or this project and this content is based off our interpretation and opinions only.

Topics: FPGA, technology, Electronic Components

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