The Internet of Things is on the rise — there are connected refrigerators, connected TVs, and connected fitness trackers. Those fitness trackers, however, are only capable of tracking the tip of the iceberg when it comes to our health. That’s why researchers hope to eventually track such things a little more comprehensively — by tracking our cells.
According to a new report published in Nature Communications, researchers have come up with a way to reprogram cells in a way that allows them to recognize electronic signals. What does that mean? Well, one day your cells could communication with your smartphone.
How does it all work? Well, the system works by using “redox molecules,” which allow for electrons to be moved through biological systems thanks to a chain of chemical reactions. Those redox molecules can be flipped from one state to another using an electrode. When some of the body’s bacterial cells were genetically modified, the researchers were able to control how the bacteria produces protein. And, since that protein shows up as green, the team could basically flip a switch to turn the bacterial cells on or off.
This isn’t the only use for the research. In other examples, the researchers were able to influence an entire colony of cells.
It’s all in its early stages, but the researchers themselves envisage the creation of autonomous systems that could be far better at tracking your health than anything that’s already out. The system could be applied to basic fitness tracking, but it could also go a step further — perhaps one day you’ll get a notification on your phone saying that a once-deadly disease has been detected and treated — all without your knowledge and thanks to these programmable cells.