Sign In

Communications of the ACM


Shrinking Machines, Cellular Computers

logic gates in bacteria, illustration

Credit: Biodesign Institute

Since research in synthetic biology began nearly two decades ago, the field has expanded beyond its original mandate of using engineering principles to study and manipulate cells. Today, scientists are building biological computers and DNA-based robots that can carry out logical operations and complete tasks.

These miniscule machines look nothing like laptops or Roombas. Yet, algorithms still guide the robots through tasks, and the biological computers funnel inputs through logic gates. While a standard circuit works with electrical currents, though, the inputs in the biological version are biochemical signals triggered by presence of a protein or pathogen. The outputs, in turn, are another set of biochemical signals that trigger cellular responses, such as the activation of a gene.


No entries found

Log in to Read the Full Article

Sign In

Sign in using your ACM Web Account username and password to access premium content if you are an ACM member, Communications subscriber or Digital Library subscriber.

Need Access?

Please select one of the options below for access to premium content and features.

Create a Web Account

If you are already an ACM member, Communications subscriber, or Digital Library subscriber, please set up a web account to access premium content on this site.

Join the ACM

Become a member to take full advantage of ACM's outstanding computing information resources, networking opportunities, and other benefits.

Subscribe to Communications of the ACM Magazine

Get full access to 50+ years of CACM content and receive the print version of the magazine monthly.

Purchase the Article

Non-members can purchase this article or a copy of the magazine in which it appears.
Sign In for Full Access
» Forgot Password? » Create an ACM Web Account