Programmable cells may be the next step toward making us real-life cyborgs

programmable cells cyborg 26790923 l
Ktsdesign/123RF
With high-tech implants, mind-controlled prostheses, and even head-up displays like Google Glass, it’s pretty clear that the cyborg dream of machine-augmented humans is no longer limited to science fiction.

Researchers from the University of Maryland have taken that dream to the next level, courtesy of new research showing how the “gene expression” of biological cells can be controlled electronically and even “programmed” to behave in different ways.

“Electronics has changed our lives when it intersects with biology,” Dr. William Bentley, one of the authors of the paper, told Digital Trends. “Things which come to mind immediately are EKG, EEG, defibrillators and the like. This was discovered a long time ago, with people zapping neurons and cardiomyocytes with current and realizing that they could achieve amazing things by doing that. But for most of the molecules in the body — hormones, proteins or cholesterol — there’s no way of transferring information between biology and electronics. What we’re trying to do is to open up a dialogue.”

In the team’s latest paper, published in the journal Nature, the researchers describe an electrogenetic “switching” system within bacterial cells that lets them behave in ways nature never intended. This bioelectric hybrid system, controllable by applying voltage, enabled the team to create bacterial cells that would, for instance, light up with a green glow when switched on.

programmable cells cyborg screen shot 2017 01 31 at 19 04 22

Another similar demonstration involved a bacterial cell that was able to move forward when turned on, and stop moving when turned off.

Bentley said that the work could lead to innovations like smart devices that are able to record the presence of particular pathogens and deliver drugs to specific sites in the body.

“People are really interested in wearable devices like the Fitbit,” he continued. “Maybe it would be possible to have a Fitbit equivalent that actually makes an antibiotic or insulin and delivers it through the skin. Or a smart bandage that can be put on the wound and can then detect the necessary biomarkers that are there.”

At what point do we sign up to get our Borg Collective membership cards?

Health & Fitness

Immune cell discovery takes us one step closer to a universal flu vaccine

A group of international researchers have made a discovery which could take us one step closer to the universal, one-shot flu vaccine that people around the world have been dreaming of.
Movies & TV

The best shows on Netflix right now (February 2019)

Looking for a new show to binge? Lucky for you, we've curated a list of the best shows on Netflix, whether you're a fan of outlandish anime, dramatic period pieces, or shows that leave you questioning what lies beyond.
Gaming

Want to play as Iron Man or Waluigi in GTA V? Our favorite mods make it possible

Grand Theft Auto V is best on the PC for many reasons, and modifications may be the most important. You can cause riots, spawn unique cars, and play as a cop with just a few extra files.
Smart Home

Researchers are once again trying to science the gluten out of bread

If you've ever found gluten tough to stomach, help may be on the way. Researchers and farmers are exploring solutions that include gene-edited bread, as well as alterations to carbs and fiber.
Emerging Tech

Bees can do arithmetic, setting the scientific community abuzz

A new study has found something remarkable: Bees can do basic arithmetic. Researchers showed that bees could use colors as representations for numbers and then use those colors for addition and subtraction.
Emerging Tech

DeepSqueak is a machine learning A.I. that reveals what rats are chatting about

Want to know what rats are squeaking about? You'd better check out DeepSqueak, the new deep learning artificial intelligence developed by researchers at the University of Washington.
Photography

NASA celebrates Earth’s incredible natural beauty with free photo book

NASA has published a fabulous new book featuring stunning imagery captured by its satellites over the years. A hardback version is available for $53, though it can also be downloaded to ebook readers for free, and enjoyed online.
Deals

This new all-in-one flashlight is a power bank, lighter, and screwdriver

The Pyyros modular flashlight can perform numerous field tasks, from hammering to starting fires. If you back it on Kickstarter now, you can score some savings on this innovative flashlight and multi-tool, but act fast: This early-bird…
Movies & TV

Hilarious new Kickstarter aims to fix Scorcese’s last scene in The Departed

A fan of The Departed and apparent hater of rat-as-symbolism imagery has launched a Kickstarter campaign to digitally erase the rodent from the end of Martin Scorsese’s 2006 movie.
Emerging Tech

Baristas beware, Bbox cafe uses robots to brew your morning coffee

Want your morning coffee and pastry prepared by robot? Bbox, a new coffee shop in downtown Berkeley, California, lets customers place their order by app and then uses automation to take care of the rest.
Emerging Tech

This ridiculous new flamethrower makes Elon Musk’s look like a cigarette lighter

The XL18 Flamethrower is a flame-shooting beast on steroids, capable of firing off bursts of flame more than 110 feet in length. The best part? You can order it over the internet today.
Emerging Tech

SpaceX just nailed its most challenging Falcon 9 rocket landing to date

If you've been following the SpaceX launch calendar, you know this week marks the first launch from Cape Canaveral in two months. We have the details on where you can watch the launch live.
Emerging Tech

Touchdown! Japan successfully lands its Hayabusa2 spacecraft on asteroid Ryugu

Japan's space agency has just completed the latest stage of its extraordinarily complex mission, successfully landing its Hayabusa2 spacecraft on an asteroid millions of miles from Earth.
Emerging Tech

Delivery drones: NASA to test advanced traffic control system for cities

Delivery drone services are edging closer as NASA prepares to demonstrate its advanced drone traffic management system, which it claims offers safe and effective control of autonomous aircraft in urban areas.