The technology demonstrated in this research out of MIT has some huge implications. Basically, bacteria are genetically engineered to emit light when certain conditions exist in the gastrointestinal system, and that bacteria is grafted onto a small microchip that sends a signal when that light appears, and this signal can be read by a smartphone or a computer outside the body. The creators purport that numerous conditions can be designed for, so we can create an ingestible sensor that can replace invasive procedures like endoscopies. Can you guys think of any novel applications for a technology like this?
I think this kind of tech is really interesting. It will have to become even smaller of course; thats a damn big pill to swallow. It just seems so much more likely to me that what we imagine as nanobots are actually going to be genetically engineered bacteria and viruses. Its going to be so much easier to modify what exists already and the techniques for all that are already here. A lot of it just seems to be limited by ethics, funding and imagination. There is so much more possible with programmed biology. I don’t often think about it interfacing with a chip through light signaling in vivo, so thats something interesting to ponder.
Tech like this will end up being how they cure cancer I bet, reprogram the cancerous cells to stop it and be normal
And then we’ll start reprogramming neurons to ‘stop it and be normal.’ Bruce Sterling said ‘anything you can do to a rat you can do to a human,’ so why not anything you can do to a bacteria you can do to a neuron…
This is already happening, at least for some less invasive testing. It’s called PillCam 2 Colon. It’s a small pill that’s swallowed to capture views of a colonoscopy. The pill has a tiny camera on either end. Of course it’s still quite expensive. But very promising.
For sure, I had a test done for acid reflux where they installed a small chip in my esophagus to monitor reflux levels. Super fascinating, but not exactly a pill.
This vaguely reminds me of the very beginning of Cowboy Bebop: Knocking on Heaven’s Door (OVA), which revolves around programmable proteins. Instead of nanomachines, said proteins were developed, as suggested above, to combat cancer.
It didn’t last long however, and the technology was quickly weaponized into an effective bioweapon, which is where the plot of the movie takes off. 😛
Humans are very good at weaponizing anything they can get their paws on, but it is also true that many fantastic inventions have been the product of this sort of development. We wouldn’t have the digital era without advances made in the World Wars. Although, it may have happened eventually outside of war based on much of the foundation existing in pre-1900s with the likes of the Analytical Engine and Ada Lovelace’s programs.