Expanding the landscape of biological computation with synthetic multicellular consortia
- 471 Downloads
Computation is an intrinsic attribute of biological entities. All of them gather and process information and respond in predictable ways to an uncertain external environment. Are these computations similar to those performed by artificial systems? Can a living computer be constructed following standard engineering practices? Despite the similarities between molecular networks associated to information processing and the wiring diagrams used to represent electronic circuits, major differences arise. Such differences are specially relevant while engineering molecular circuits in order to build novel functionalities. Among others, wiring molecular components within a cell becomes a great challenge as soon as the complexity of the circuit becomes larger than simple gates. An alternative approach has been recently introduced based on a non-standard approach to cellular computation. By breaking some standard assumptions of engineering design, it allows the synthesis of multicellular engineered circuits able to perform complex functions and open a novel form of computation. Here we review previous studies dealing with both natural and synthetic forms of computation. We compare different systems spanning many spatial and temporal scales and outline a possible “space” of biological forms of computation. We suggest that a novel approach to build synthetic devices using multicellular consortia allows expanding this space in new directions.
KeywordsSynthetic biology Cell computing Circuit design Evolution Robustness
We would like to thank the members of the Complex Systems Lab as well as to F. Posas, L. de Nadal and JF Sebastian for interesting comments. This work has been supported by a European Research Council Advanced Grant, and Grants from the MINECO FIS2009-12365, the Botin Foundation and by the Santa Fe Institute.
- Arbib M (1995) The handbook of brain theory and neural networks. MIT Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
- Ausländer S, Ausländer D, Muller M, Wieland M, Fussenegger M (2012b) Programmable single-cell mammalian biocomputers. Nat Biotechnol 487:123–127Google Scholar
- Enderton H (2001) A mathematical introduction to logic, 2nd edn. Harcourt Academic Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
- Kauffman SA (1993) The origins of order. Oxford University Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
- Morris SC (2004) Life’s solution: inevitable humans in a lonely universe. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
- Perkins TJ, Swain PS (2009) Strategies for cellular decision-making. Mol Syst Biol 5:326Google Scholar
- Sipper M (1999) The emergence of cellular computing. Comput Aided Des 32:18–26Google Scholar
- Solé RV, Miramontes O, Goodwin BC (1993) Oscillations and chaos in ant societies. J Theor Biol 161:343–357Google Scholar
- von Neumann J (1956) Probabilistic logics and the synthesis of reliable organisms from unreliable components. In: Shannon CE, McCarthy J (eds) Automata studies. Princeton University Press, Princeton, pp 43–76Google Scholar
- Weber W, Fussenegger M (2012) Emerging biomedical applications of synthetic biology. Nat Rev Gen 13:21–35Google Scholar