Skip to main content

Democratising genetic engineering with new programming language

by Futures Centre, Apr 20
2 minutes read

It has been possible for well over a decade to design a DNA sequence, insert it into a living cell and change that cell’s behaviour. But this has been confined to the long and painstaking work of expert genetic engineers. Now scientists at MIT are making it possible to do this much more quickly and without the need for detailed knowledge of how genetic engineering works.

DNA bact

This is how it works: the scientist uses the new programming language to describe the cell’s desired stimulus and response. This is then translated by the programme into a DNA sequence, which can then be embedded in a living cell. The approach has worked so far with simple bacteria like E Coli, and the next stage is to programme other types of bacteria where there may be widespread applications. One idea is to programme gut bacteria to digest lactose when the bacteria sense it has been consumed; another is to programme bacteria to search out, grow among and attack cancer cells. And another is to instruct bacteria that grow among plant roots to release insecticide, but only if the plant is attacked by insect pests – making pest control much more precise and less environmentally damaging.


by Futures Centre Spotted 1994 signals

Have you spotted a signal of change?

Register to receive the latest from the Futures Centre.
Sign up

  • 0
  • Share

Related signals

Our use of cookies

We use necessary cookies to make our site work. We'd also like to set optional analytics cookies to help us improve it. We won't set optional cookies unless you enable them. Using this tool will set a cookie on your device to remember your preferences.

For more detailed information about the cookies we use, see our Cookies page.

Necessary cookies

Necessary cookies enable core functionality such as security, network management, and accessibility. You may disable these by changing your browser settings, but this may affect how the website functions.

Analytics cookies

We'd like to set Google Analytics cookies to help us to improve our website by collecting and reporting information on how you use it. The cookies collect information in a way that does not directly identify anyone. For more information on how these cookies work, please see our 'Cookies page'.