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Revision as of 02:57, 26 October 2012

Impact of switches

A Switch is the basic regulatory element that can maintain a selected state even in the absence of a signal. Introduction of several orthogonal bistable switches allows selection of many different states, e.g. 3 bistable switches allow 8 distinct states while 1000 different states could be reached with only 10 switches.

Each state of our switch is defined by the presence of selected activators and repressors than can in principle regulate any number of selected genes. Therefore with a relatively small number of designed switches we could drive a very complex epigenetic cell program such as cell differentiation.

Additionally, switches are the basic building blocks of memory, in analogy to the electronic components. Therefore a set of orthogonal bistable switches can be used to build a biological memory of significantly higher complexity than up to now.

Scalable biological memory is one of the great challenges of synthetic biology. Memory can be used to design counters, which are extremely useful elements that have, so far, been limited to count up to 3 with no prospects of a significant increase using the same underlying tools.

We therefore anticipate that designed TAL-based or in general DNA-binding element-based transcriptional factor logic will play a very important role in the development of synthetic biology.

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