Originally posted by John_Rodger_Cornman
What if we were able to create digital organisms using DNA that was (protien)transistor based? What types of things are possible with that? Are there
any clear dangers?
This doesn't quite make sense... At first i thought you meant an organism with a digital brain (made up from transistors), or maybe a simulated
digital organism, but you're talking about transistors in the DNA itself... Why would you want to put transistors into the DNA? How would you
integrate them at all, and what are they supposed to do there?
Also, transistors don't automatically make things digital. A transistor is, simply speaking, an electronic device, that allows electric current to
pass through two of it's terminals (collector and emitter), depending on the input signal on its third terminal (base). The input on the third
terminal can simply be ON/OFF (High/Low), acting like an electrical switch, (which would make it digital), but it can also be completely analog, in
which case the amplitude of the input directly determines the amplitude of the output. The latter is what is used for amplifiers for example.
The point of transistors is, that you can use a very small (weak) input signal, to directly control a much stronger current between the collector and
emitter terminals. That's how we can capture weak radio transmissions, and convert them into signals powerful enough to be heard on speakers. Or how a
microprocessor can control heavy machinery with very weak signals, using transistors as switches.
So, what are they supposed to be doing inside DNA anyway? How would the DNA replicate itself, with transistors in between the strands (or wherever
they are supposed to be)? Would it have to replicate the transistors as well?
The only thing i can even remotely think of, would be using "transistors" (well, not transistors, but some kind of switches) to switch between
different strands of DNA, to determine which ones are active and should reproduce themselves, and which ones are not. Doing that would (in theory)
make an organism grow one way, until you flip some of those switches, after which it would continue growing in a different fashion. For a fully grown
organism, you might be able to switch off a DNA sequence causing trouble, and replace it with another one. But the system would be limited to the
alternate sequences you prepared from the start, and it could only work, if the entire DNA would have these switches, which means, they would have to
get replicated together with the rest of the DNA.
Or maybe you were thinking about "transistors" as devices which could completely emulate all the properties of any of the DNAs base pairs, but also
allow you to "switch" them to emulate any other base pairs of your choice on your command, so that you could change this artificial DNA on the fly?
This would make more sense as an idea, but only in the realm of science fiction i'm afraid. Also, when artificial DNA like that would replicate
itself, the resulting DNA would be of the usual kind, and not "adjustable", so the changes would only be effective, if done before the growth would
If you can only make changes before the organism starts growing, you didn't achieve anything you couldn't do, if you "simply" created a new DNA
sequence, and made it grow. If you wanted to make changes at any given time during the organisms life cycle, you would have to create an artificial
alternative for DNA - one that would be capable of both self replication and self modification depending on an external command.
In any case, whatever it would be, it would have very little to do with transistors, and if it's about changing the DNA of an organism, there are
probably much easier (or at least less impossible) ways to do it.
edit on 9/8/11 by deezee because: To add...