MIT biological engineers have created a programming language that allows them to rapidly design complex, DNA-encoded circuits that give new functions to living cells.
Using this language, anyone can write a program for the function they want, such as detecting and responding to certain environmental conditions. They can then generate a DNA sequence that will achieve it.
Ref: Genetic circuit design automation. Science (1 April 2016) | DOI: 10.1126/science.aac7341
As synthetic biology techniques become more powerful, researchers are anticipating a future in which the design of biological circuits will be similar to the design of integrated circuits in electronics. Nielsen et al. describe what is essentially a programming language to design computational circuits in living cells. The circuits generated on plasmids expressed in Escherichia coli required careful insulation from their genetic context, but primarily functioned as specified. The circuits could, for example, regulate cellular functions in response to multiple environmental signals. Such a strategy can facilitate the development of more complex circuits by genetic engineering.