Genetically modified bacteria play tick tock with scientists

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Bacteria tag game, that seems rather unlikely. But scientists have made it possible by changing bacteria Escherichia coli. Thus they are “tuned” to behave like electronic components and act as a neural network, a form of artificial intelligence capable of learning.

We propose an evolutionary strategy to design genetic circuits capable of learning to make autonomous decisions in complex environments. ”, The researchers add in one sentence to their pre-published research report bioRxiv. At the moment, the “decision” in the question is to make the right choice in the game of Knots and Cross: which box? Not so strange, since this test is often used to test artificial intelligence systems.

It all started in 2019, with the work of another research team. A strain of a specific bacterium, Escherichia coli, has been genetically modified to detect 12 different chemicals and respond accordingly by altering the activity of specific genes. This strain has been nicknamed “Puppet”.

The research team has undertaken this task and implemented other changes. They collected many copies of two circular fragments of DNA, called “plasmids.” Each of these plasmids “codes” a different fluorescent protein. One is red, the other is green. The ratio of these two plasmids present in bacteria, and therefore their final color, is not pre-determined: it is affected by 12 different chemicals, but also by specific antibiotics. If no such change is applied, the ratio remains constant. In a way, the structure of DNA therefore forms a kind of “memory”, which remains frozen until the next change.

When, conversely, a new “data” is entered through a chemical or antibiotic, the proportions (and therefore the color) are developed, considering the previous configuration. This means that some memory is retained, and therefore some form of learning is possible. This behavior is similar to that of an electronic component called “memoryister”. Scientists have named this new biological “element” “Memregulan”.

Biological memorabilia

A memoryist is, in fact, a component similar to a transistor, which can not only process, but also store data in its internal memory. It is used to create a component that is specifically called a “neural network”. Indeed, in many cases today, what is called “artificial intelligence” is “fed” with a large amount of data to “learn” for a given purpose and to extract logical connections. Recognize face, text … or play tic tac toe … these learning methods are inspired by the functioning of biological neurons. Today, they are closer to the statistical approach. So we are talking about an “artificial neural network”. The transmitted data takes place in an artificial “grid” of neurons, usually virtual. They are actually points of the network, “linked” together by computer code. This network therefore receives incoming information, training information and transmits outgoing information.

From the moment the bacteria are able to receive an incoming data (chemical product or antibiotic), to transmit a “result” (DNA and so color change), retaining the previous data in memory, one realizes that the comparison is made. Similarly, scientists are therefore ready to create a “neural network” with these bacteria.

This has led to a system that, by learning from its past behavior, reprogramming itself – in short, like learning AI. Here’s how scientists came up with the example of crab lice: Like “training” bacteria, they applied education by “reinforcement”, meaning reward and punishment according to whether the action was. Strategic enough or not.

These bacteria were cultured in bogies associated with a crab grid. Every time people play, the bacteria is “informed” by adding a chemical product to the bogie, each product being associated with a location. If, at first, the bacterium “played” its next step randomly, it eventually learned through the strengthening method, being “punished”, adding antibiotics when the game was bad. But not so easy: it took several days to play a game.

The protest is a crab concern, which is rather innocuous. According to scientists, however, the potential for their research is much wider. ” Altered gene circuits can empower living cells to make decisions “They, too, may be able to” reprogram “themselves in the context of many complex decision-making.

Source bioRxiv

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