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ACM TechNews

Computerized Biology, or How to Control a Population of Cells With a Computer

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Dynamical stabilization: real-time control allows maintaining cells in unstable configurations.

European researchers used of hybrid experimental platforms in two studies to enable the production of reprogrammable behaviors of cell populations.

Credit: Gregory Batt, Jakob Ruess, Chetan Aditya

Two studies from European researchers detail their use of hybrid experimental platforms to enable the production of new and reprogrammable behaviors of cell populations.

The researchers have developed two platforms linking a microscope to a computer, while cells are placed in a microfluidic device in which the chemical environment can be varied, or exposed to light. A computer program then decides which alterations should be made in the chemical or light environment based on cellular behavior and the goal of the experiment.

One study applied optogenetics to activate gene expression by exposing cells to light, with a controller, using a model of the system, making real-time decisions about which dynamic disturbances to exert according to the cells' expected future behavior.

For the second study, the experiment involved placing a cellular system in an unstable configuration via the use of a computer program designed to force the cells to randomly take binary decisions.

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