More and more often, scientists are taking data "off the shelf" and combining it with machine learning to derive insights in biology, Microsoft Research's David Heckerman explains in a video. "The cost of sequencing human DNA is dropping extremely quickly, much faster than Moore's Law," he said, explaining the cost went from several billion a little more than 10 years ago to sequence one human genome to about $1,000 today. "Soon it will cost less than taking blood."
Heckerman shares insights of how machine learning and big data collected from across the Internet continue to change biological sciences. He provides examples of how machine learning at Microsoft changes personalized medicine, HIV vaccine design, epigenomics, drug repurposing, and our understanding of coronary artery disease.
If marketers can't use all the data available from collections across the Web, perhaps someone else can. So it seems perfect timing to reintroduce the team of Stanford University bioengineers who took computing beyond mechanics and electronics and into biology last year when they introduced rewritable digital data storage within DNA. They also developed a way to transmit genetic information from cell to cell, a sort of biological Internet.
In a paper published in Science last March, the team details a biological transistor made from DNA and RNA, rather than gears or electrons. "In electronics, a transistor controls the flow of electrons along a circuit. Similarly, in biologics, a 'transcriptor,' which amplifies genetic logic, controls the flow of a specific protein, RNA polymerase, as it travels along a strand of DNA.
"The 'transcriptor' allows engineers to compute inside living cells to record when cells have been exposed to certain external stimuli or environmental factors, or even to turn on and off cell reproduction as needed."
This means that when combined with the DNA-based data storage and a method to transmit DNA between cells the team of bioengineers were already working on, the group created all the components of a biologic computer.