By engineering a parasitical virus, geneticists have taken the first steps toward creating a biological internet in which the body’s processes can be improved by controlling the natural communication abilities of cells. Using the M13 virus, Stanford researchers have created a mechanism to send genetic messages from cell to cell. “The system greatly increases the complexity and amount of data that can be communicated between cells and could lead to greater control of biological functions within cell communities.”
What’s the Big Idea?
When the Internet was invented in the 1970s, hardly anyone knew what it might become. Similarly, Bi-Fi could yield wild benefits: “Down the road, the biological Internet could lead to biosynthetic factories in which huge masses of microbes collaborate to make more complicated fuels, pharmaceuticals and other useful chemicals. With improvements, the engineers say, their cell-cell communication platform might someday allow more complex three-dimensional programming of cellular systems, including the regeneration of tissue or organs.”
Embedded in a cell phone or in accessories such as rings, bracelets or watches, the novel tools aim to make it easier to manage hypertension. But they must still pass several tests before hitting the clinic.