Biological machine: ‘Living computer’ made by printing cells on paper

Credit: Universitat Pompeu Fabra Barcelona
Credit: Universitat Pompeu Fabra Barcelona

From tablets and laptops to PCs and smartphones, we have many electronic devices to fill every moment in our lives. However, despite their prevalence, they’re very limited to use as biological markers and identify certain diseases.

To cover this gap, researchers started dabbing on “biological computers”. Instead of motherboards and RAMs, biological computers are made with living cells. Instead of electricity, biocomputers use chemical inputs from molecules such as proteins or DNA to process their data.

So far, however, these devices have been too complicated to operate and could only work under stringent conditions. But now, a team from Pompey Fabra University found a way to “print” live cells onto paper, in effect creating biocomputers that can be used anywhere. Incredibly, the cells stay alive and well, trapped on the paper but able to continue normal metabolism, releasing signals that can reach their neighbouring cells.

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“Certainly there is much work to do, but these initial results suggest that the methodology developed may be the means to facilitate the creation of commercial products based on living devices”, concluded [researcher] Javier Macía.

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