Imagine if your guts contained a full working computer – made out of a fleet of bacteria. Imagine if computer could store data, act as a surveillance system to detect and monitor bowel infections at an early stage, release medications as necessary, and not require any electricity – all using bacteria that, in their wild form, reside in your guts anyway. There's certainly a lot of potential – organic infestation stories aside!
Which raises some important questions: assuming someone did create such a bacterial computer, who would be responsible for making sure that the 'installations' are not abused? And how would we deal with 'abused installations'?
The nutshell version
Basically, the researchers have managed to control expression of particular bacterial secretions and corresponding receptors to communicate with the bacterial environment. They then used these bacterial 'components' to detect and respond to carbohydrate presence in mouse guts, and checked their feces for indications of the indicators produced by the programmed response reaction. While it's still a long way from full-powered biocomputing, we're definitely starting to see the first small steps to an intriguing future ahead.
More details in the full article:
Bacteria Programmed to Develop Basic Computing Elements Like Sensors, Memory and Circuits
MIT researchers have unveiled sensors, circuits, and memory switches to be encoded in bacterium Bacteroides thetaiotaomicron.