Who needs nanotech?

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adept42 adept42's picture
Who needs nanotech?

That was the first question that came to mind after reading this article:

Quote:
Scientists at The University of Nottingham are leading an ambitious research project to develop an in vivo biological cell-equivalent of a computer operating system. The success of the project to create a 're-programmable cell' could revolutionise synthetic biology and would pave the way for scientists to create completely new and useful forms of life using a relatively hassle-free approach.

I mean, why build nanites if you can program a cell to perform any nano-scale tasks you need to do? Mother Nature has already mastered problems that nanotech grapples with (self-replication, energy source, mobility), so why reinvent the wheel? Stunning visualizations of the inner workings of our own bodies show that we've already got trillions of molecular factories inside of us, and there would be no need for specialized and artificial "nano-hives" if we could harness the machinery we already have.

Of course, this is all wildly speculative, but I'm interested to hear what other folks think about this.

GreyBrother GreyBrother's picture
Re: Who needs nanotech?

Well, as far as i figure it, biological implements always have this nasty habit of evolving and mutating, if compared to technological things (note my use of eloquent words :D).

I think both should be developed and we see what's better or what is better for what use, to be exact. I'm sure there are some tasks that "Hard" Nanites can do better than "Soft" Nanites, and vice versa.

A sentinel's gotta do, what a sentinel's gotta do.

Arenamontanus Arenamontanus's picture
Re: Who needs nanotech?

Of course, there are always the cyborg yeast (original paper) where genetic programs are regulated by an external computer using laser. However, one reason for this project is the problem that genetic circuits are fairly unreliable for our purposes - bionano is indeed unruly, hence the need for laser feedback.

Whether the project ever gets anywhere remains to be seen. I wish them the best of luck, but it is worth noticing that the story is about the press release from the *start* of the project.

Extropian

root root's picture
Re: Who needs nanotech?

root@Why needs nanotech?


Last I knew, we didn't know how to create gates in a lipid bilayer yet. Adapting cells to wildly different purposes seems a bit out of our league if we have no control over the I/O "protocols" for cells.

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Arenamontanus Arenamontanus's picture
Re: Who needs nanotech?

root wrote:
Last I knew, we didn't know how to create gates in a lipid bilayer yet. Adapting cells to wildly different purposes seems a bit out of our league if we have no control over the I/O "protocols" for cells.

But we can easily get cells to make lipid bilayers, and people are making designer ion channels.

Inventing an entirely new cell is very hard, reverse engineering the right parts and claiming it is "my" cell is easy.

Extropian

root root's picture
Re: Who needs nanotech?

root@Who needs nanotech?


Arenamontanus wrote:
But we can easily get cells to make lipid bilayers, and people are making designer ion channels.

Can I get a reference for the designer ion channels? I lost an argument recently because I didn't have any evidence that we could do that. I was reasoning that if we could imbed customized ion channels in sheets of lipid bilayers we should be able to make some really cool stacked filters, including the cellular equivalent of a protein assembly line, and I got shot down. Such are the dangers of coffee-shop biochemistry discussions.

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Arenamontanus Arenamontanus's picture
Re: Who needs nanotech?

Check out this, for example:
http://www.pnas.org/content/85/7/2393.short
or the cool things the optogenetics people are doing with ion channels linked to photoreceptors.

Extropian

root root's picture
Re: Who needs nanotech?

root@Who needs nanotech?


Thanks!

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King Shere King Shere's picture
Re: Who needs nanotech?

Perhaps cells need nanotech?. Here is a article about "Bacillus cereus" thats augmented with nanosized particles. Zombie bacteria...

http://www.nature.com/news/2005/051017/full/news051017-3.html



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