Internet of Things: The organic version
Imagine a bacterium or group of bacteria transmitting a text message to another group and this second group taking it to different places in your body.
Well, this has already been done in laboratories, where scientists used E. Coli to do exactly that: transmit information.
If you are familiar with the Internet of Things or IoT, you will realize that this system of sending and / or receiving information through networks is very similar to what scientists tried, only this time they did not use cables or Wi-Fi signals, but organic matter.
Bacteria have the information storage and processing architecture that allows them to communicate effectively, a quality that could be used by humans to create a biological version of the internet of things.
Given these capabilities, bacteria have been able to be programmed and deploy – for now in a controlled environment – and it is hoped that this experiment can be extended to real scenarios such as the sea or other environments “to detect toxins and pollutants, collect data and undertake processes of bioremediation”.
Bacteria could even help treat certain diseases by traveling through the human body to release hormones that may be useful for the body when its internal sensor is activated.
The case of E. coli cited above is especially significant because of its characteristics. This bacterium is able to collect information about certain agents in its environment such as temperature, light or chemicals, it can store this information in DNA and process it through ribosomes and it can move thanks to a motor formed by flagella that generate thrust.
But bacteria have a much stronger point: they are quite easy to manipulate. In their study, Poslad and Kim, the two scientists who headed the experiment, point out that biotechnological tools are increasingly accessible and affordable and that there are educational products such as Amino Labs designed so that even high school students can perform small-scale biohacking experiments with microorganisms.
But not everything is as fantastic as one would expect in this new field. Working with bacteria has several inconveniences and ethical dilemmas that should be taken into account.
They are difficult to track, so it is not strange that the information they transmit is lost once released in nature.
Unlike the internet of things, where the information that is generated at one point can be transmitted to another without a problem, its biological counterpart does not have the ability to control where the information it carries ends.
In addition, the process of evolution of these microorganisms through mutation or selection can lead to results that are practically impossible to predict, which adds instability to this hypothetical network.