Researchers at MIT have developed a programming language that will allow the toolmakers of the future to “program” living cells—outfitting them with DNA-encoded circuits that confer a host of new functions on the “hacked” organism.
Christopher Voigt, professor of biological engineering at MIT, explains: “It is literally a programming language for bacteria. You use a text-based language, just like you’re programming a computer. Then you take that text and you compile it and it turns it into a DNA sequence that you put into the cell, and the circuit runs inside the cell.” (source)
Essentially, you start with the ability you want to program into the bacterium—say, detecting the presence of certain harmful chemicals. You write up a program describing it, and a DNA sequence is created that will achieve the desired function.
So let’s say you want to get rid of a certain disease. All you have to do is program the germ to snif out and eliminate the disease, just like coding a program to execute a certain function. The best thing about this breakthrough is that it’s INCREDIBLY easy to use!
You don’t need to have any training in genetic or biological engineering. Hell, you don’t even need to know what a gene is. ANYONE can use it!
It’s genetic engineering for the masses. The designers even plan to make the language’s user interface universally available on the Internet. Who knows, maybe we’ll each have a bacteria-programming-kit at home in the future.