In Vitro and in Vivo Biological Automata

Yaakov (Kobi) Benenson

FAS Center for Systems Biology - Bauer Bld B105, Harvard University, 7 Divinity Ave, Cambridge, MA 02138, U.S.A.




Components of a living organism, from organs and tissues to single cells and subcellular compartments, exchange and process numerous molecular signals in order to coordinate their activity. When these components fail, they generate characteristic signals that often trigger self-repair processes but can also cause disease when left unchecked. Engineered biomolecular systems that complement natural defense and repair mechanisms could lead to novel diagnostic and therapeutic tools. We call these systems "biological automata" because they resemble electromechanical automata in that they sense disease-related signals and convert them to a response using biological computing modules. Biological automata might be constructed as anything from molecular networks operating inside cells to "programmed" cells and their networks operating in organisms. The talk will cover a number of approaches we have taken to construct biological automata.