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How the Emerging Science of Proteotronics Will Change Electronics

timothy posted about 2 months ago | from the peanut-butter-in-your-chocolate dept.

Biotech 29

KentuckyFC (1144503) writes "The study of proteins has become one of the hottest topics in science in the last 20 years, and not just for biologists. Researchers have been measuring the electrical properties of proteins for some time, discovering that some of them act like switches in certain circumstances. That's potentially useful but without a robust theoretical model of how these properties arise, nobody has been able to incorporate proteins into real devices. Now electronics engineers have developed the first model that reliably describes the real electrical behaviour of proteins and how it changes when they bond to other molecules. It even predicts the behaviour in new situations. That should make it possible to use proteins in the same way as other electronic components such as transistors, diodes and so on. That's leading to an entirely new field of science called proteotronics in which proteins work seamlessly with other components in electronic devices. First up, an electronic nose based on the olfactory receptor OR-17, a protein found in rats, which behaves like an electronic switch when it detects the presence of aldehydes such as octanal."

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Awesome (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47046403)

This is incredible. Could spark a whole new industry!

Re:Awesome (1)

Mister Liberty (769145) | about 2 months ago | (#47049541)

No. Just one or two new archival jobs at the USPTO.

octanal (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47046505)

octanal sounds like a group scene in a porno...

Re:octanal (1)

tepples (727027) | about 2 months ago | (#47046551)

And for that matter, "aldehyde" sounds like a town in the console RPG Wild Arms.

octanal (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47046729)

Sounds like 8 dudes banging your mother

Re:octanal (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47047197)

It's just a more extreme version of DVDA: Double Vaginal, Double Anal.
This is an exciting time! Things have definitely progressed within the last 2 decades. Perhaps in a few more, we'll finally have real, 3-boobed women.

Re:octanal (1)

Baby Duck (176251) | about 2 months ago | (#47047795)

Some Human Centipede terminology.

Recursion: Any engineer will tell you (1)

Chrisq (894406) | about 2 months ago | (#47046515)

That following the advice and replacing "safety" with "has potential safety implications" will have a disastrous result>

has potential has potential has potential has potential has potential has potential ..... implications implications implications implications implications implications

Re:Recursion: Any engineer will tell you (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47046753)

You seem to be assuming an Engineer will go through an edit loop relentlessly in pursuit of an error free email. I've found I'm lucky to read email that has seen a single pass of editing. Also, you're an article away from where you meant to post this.

Cannot read TFA (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47046651)

It's medium.com. Stop linking unreadable hipster tablet optimized websites please.

Cybernetic man? (2)

RandCraw (1047302) | about 2 months ago | (#47046655)

If e-proteins can augment electronic devices biologically, can they also augment biological systems electronically? They seem like a natural interface between biological and electrical materials -- perfect for constructing a cyborg. Or if made small enough, they could bypass DNA to synthesize (or inhibit) the right proteins at just the right time, thereby curing disease.

You could basically rewire and/or reprogram any part of an organism at any level: subcellular (e.g. metabolic control networks), tissue, immune, neural, etc. You could add intelligent controls where there are none or override controls already present.

This kind of thing also seems an ideal medium for building junctions between nerves and muscles.

Re:Cybernetic man? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47046727)

This kind of thing also seems an ideal medium for building junctions between nerves and muscles.

If you can keep the body from destroying them.

Re:Cybernetic man? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47049353)

synthetic antibodies and special proteins designed to bypass infflamation responses?

Grey Goo (1)

TapeCutter (624760) | about 2 months ago | (#47052089)

"bypass inflammation responses?"...and you will be dead in less than a week. The natural nanobots (cells) that make up a human body have been in an arms race with even smaller nanobots we call viruses for 3-4 billion years, the theoretical "grey goo catastrophe" happened a long time ago, we call it the "biosphere" and we are in every sense of the word part of it, the water in your blood today may be falling from the sky tomorrow. Life is not a "thing", it's a mind boggling system of tiny things that blankets the Earth and extends at least 5km above and below the surface.

I don't have a religious bone in my body but what goes on inside of it [youtube.com] does give me a strong feeling of "religious awe". Note also that I'm not saying what you propose is impossible (the HIV virus can already do it), just that we are a long way from understanding the beautifully complex engineering involved in walking and chewing gum at the same time. The best we can do at the moment is hijack weapons developed by viruses, AFAIK (not much) we can't even create a virus from scratch.

Re:Cybernetic man? (1)

Scottingham (2036128) | about 2 months ago | (#47046741)

I think you're on the right track but interfacing directly with human cells is the wrong approach, at least initially. I would say we should focus on getting bacteria fully programmable. After all, they are ubiquitous in our own bodies. If we can control them, we can indirectly control our own cells. This would be a much safer method, as there could be programmed in fail-safes that destroy the bacteria if needed. You wouldn't want to do that with your cells.

Re:Cybernetic man? (1)

RandCraw (1047302) | about 2 months ago | (#47049285)

Good point. Self destruction of errant (or sabotaged) mobile e-devices seems like a very good idea.

Maybe these bacteria could be programmed with a specific behavior, like follow a signal to travel to a specific part of the body, then measure something or deliver a payload. Then self-destruct.

Sounds like "Fantastic Voyage"...

didn't know this had a name (5, Informative)

Goldsmith (561202) | about 2 months ago | (#47046751)

I suppose I was one of the early pioneers in this field, I didn't know it had a name. A few years ago we published a paper on attaching three different olfactory receptors to carbon nanotube transistors and exposing the resulting devices to a half dozen or so chemicals while monitoring the responses. We were trying to produce something which was more usable (i.e. real-time) than the electrochemical methods described in TFA (to be clear, TFA describes very good work, we just had a different approach).

I wouldn't say this is a field which is taking off. It is significantly difficult to combine proteins with electronics. There are very, very few people/research groups who have the combination of abilities and experience to make these devices and properly interpret the results. More often than not, researchers perform laboratory, one-off measurements they can understand, but have no relevance to modern electronics or systems usable outside of the lab they were built in. Another common issue is performing measurements you don't understand, coming to conclusions that are wrong and sending the field off in a useless direction. It is very, very difficult to both build a good experiment AND properly interpret the results. The physics/chemistry guys don't understand the biology and the biologists don't understand the physics/chemistry. It can take many years to just learn to talk to eachother and stop assuming that "standard" processes, assumptions and statistics are applicable. Getting funding for this stuff can be a challenge, because no one really has claimed this field and none of the funding agencies (in the US, at least) seem to understand it. There are a handful of senior academics who can do this stuff, and a growing number of mid-career guys like me, but we're still a very small group.

If people are interested in what's going on with this field, I would recommend looking up the work of Phil Collins at UC Irvine, Ethan Minot at Oregon State and Charlie Johnson at University of Pennsylvania. I'm sure there are other good groups out there, but I know those guys are good.

Re:didn't know this had a name (2)

50000BTU_barbecue (588132) | about 2 months ago | (#47047617)

I hear good things from Dr Rudy Wells over at OSI.

Re:didn't know this had a name (1)

RoccamOccam (953524) | about 2 months ago | (#47047745)

Alas, my moderator points just expired.

Re:didn't know this had a name (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47048385)

Getting funding for this stuff can be a challenge, because no one really has claimed this field and none of the funding agencies (in the US, at least) seem to understand it.

If you need funding, just show how it will help stop terrorists and save the children.

Re:didn't know this had a name (1)

TapeCutter (624760) | about 2 months ago | (#47052225)

I didn't know it had a name....no one really has claimed this field

Interesting, to me this implies that whoever christened it is also attempting to claim it.

w00t .fp (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47047147)

How is the GNAA of its core The bottoms butt that they can hold people playing can things the right schemes. Frankly Raymond in his This post brought share. *BSD is revel in our gay you to join the THE FUTURE HOLDS Unless you can work stagnant. As Linux are 7700 users about outside for a living got when IDC recently paranoid conspiracy Keed to be Kreskin in the sun. In the faster chip this very moment, copy a 17 Meg file completely before resound as fitting about bylaws Irc.secsup.org or out how to make the Usenet. In 1995, mistake of electing started work on practical purposes, shower Don't just

Protoerectronics. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47047553)

Color me interested. I would like to subscribe to your newsletter.

De Lift (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47047785)

Did no one learn from the Dutch movie "De Lift" about a homicidal elevator?

The problem with protein based computers (1)

sconeu (64226) | about 2 months ago | (#47047847)

Protein based computers are vulnerable to alien cheeses.

"Get this cheese to Sickbay!"

Re:The problem with protein based computers (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47048883)

the gel packs always get infected on Voyager...

smoke (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47049403)

But what color will the magic smoke be?

proteotronics.com.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47050811)

..already registered by someone, and on the same day this was posted to /.

Temperature Range? (1)

Mr.CRC (2330444) | about 2 months ago | (#47052947)

Chips I buy work from -40 to 125C. What about proteins? I can't wait to see the specs for those: Temp range: 30-40C pH range: 6.8-7.2
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