Team:UNAM-Genomics Mexico/Project


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Overall project

Synthetic Biology has been enabling changes in all bio-domains, one such being communication. Cellular communication has relied since time immemorial on chemical messengers to exchange information. As such, these messengers regardless of their scope, are constrained to a chemical system; even far reaching messengers such as hormones are bound within the chemical system that is the human body. But this mode is about to change.

In this project, our goal is to render the chemical barrier deprecated by using a non-chemical messenger: photons. These will transport information between cells that have been designed to sense and emit light, thus creating a photon-based inter-cellular communication system.

These messengers are produced through bio-luminescent reactions, and are quite capable of traversing multiple environments. Consecuently, this enables the propagation of information beyond the chemical, biological and even spatial restrictions. As the messenger is effectively decoupled from the chemical layer, it is a natural step in the communications bridge between organic-based and silicon-based systems, such as computers.

Project Details

The process of transferring information from a sender entity to a receiver one through a determined channel is called communication. Biological entities have relied since time immemorial on chemical messengers to relay information; this holds true for multicellular organisms as well as for populations of unicellular organisms. Being chemical based, these messengers are constrained to a chemical system regardless of the scope of said system, eg: even far reaching messengers such as hormones are bound within the chemical system that is the human body.

In this project, our goal is to render the chemical barrier deprecated by enabling chemical-free communication. This has been translated to the implementation of a non-chemical messenger, in this case, photons. Our channel is thus light based; packages of photons, or energy quanta, will transport information from senders to receivers, effectively bypassing most chemical barriers in-between. Consequently, our communicating system is no longer contained within a chemical system, but within a physical one, ie: there must remain a physical channel where photons can be transported. This physical channel may range from something as sophisticated as a microcontroler-based electronic relay system, to something as simple as vacuum (or void). However, this physical layer proves very well to be impervious to most chemical signaling. Ergo, the chemical system's signaling would remain unaffected by the physical channel, and vice versa. In consequence, the exchange of information through physical means is sufficiently independent from the information encoded in the system's endogenous chemical pathways. In other words, it is extraordinarily uninvasive. As an added bonus, our receiver entities are easily transformed into emitter entities. Thus, by using our cells as information processing chassis, we can expand the communications layer. We can effectively render our system one where information is: - encoded and sent by an emitter - recieved and decoded by a receiver - plus processed, transformed, and relayed forth

Our ambicious implementation is based on well known systems, mainly bioluminescent proteins from Photinus pyralis and Vibrio fischeri, as well as photoactive receptors like Arabidopsis thaliana phytochromes and Light-Oxygen-Voltage domain quimeric proteins. We thus exploit the fact that cells already display primitive photo-communication, both within multicellular organisms as well as within populations of unicellular ones. Moreover, in our system the photonic information is transformed to and from chemical information within the chemical system that is an individual cell. Thus, the chemical barrier that is the membrane has ceased being a barrier to communication and is now a noise isolator. By decoupling the messenger from the chemical layer, we enable a brand new host of applications that were previously unavailable, ranging in domains from neurobiology, to cybernetic coupling, and even to biological telecommunications.

Part 2

The Experiments

Part 3