Microscopic agents programmed by DNA circuits

G. Gines, A. S. Zadorin, J.-C. Galas, T. Fujii, A. Estevez-Torres & Y. Rondelez
Nat. Nanotechnol. 2017

Abstract

Information stored in synthetic nucleic acids sequences can be used in vitro to create complex reaction networks with precisely programmed chemical dynamics. Here, we scale up this approach to program networks of microscopic particles (agents) dispersed in an enzymatic solution. Agents may possess multiple stable states, thus maintaining a memory and communicate by emitting various orthogonal chemical signals, while also sensing the behaviour of neighbouring agents. Using this approach, we can produce collective behaviours involving thousands of agents, for example retrieving information over long distances or creating spatial patterns. Our systems recapitulate some fundamental mechanisms of distributed decision making and morphogenesis among living organisms and could find applications in cases where many individual clues need to be combined to reach a decision, for example in molecular diagnostics.

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