No doubt, it is difficult to design operating systems for computers
that simultaneously run numerous applications, while managing
interactions between multiple types of hardware and responding to a
multitude of commands from users.
Now imagine trying to design a similar operating system not for a
laptop, a PC or even a smartphone, but rather for something much, much
tinier -- a living biological cell.
This is exactly what a group of scientists at the University of
Nottingham, in England, will attempt to do as part of a five-year, $1.58
million research project that has been aptly named AudACiOus -- which,
according to researchers is derived from "towArds a Universal
BiologicAl-Cell Operating System" with an extraneous "D" and "U" thrown
It is undoubtedly an audacious and ambitious initiative, but if the
researchers are successful it could result in a major breakthrough for
synthetic biology -- a relatively new and somewhat controversial
It combines biology, chemistry, physics, computer science and
engineering to program genetic components of a cell to perform new
biological functions -- such as bacteria that could produce biofuel or
Researchers say the project could lead to the creation of completely
new cellular life forms that could do anything from cleaning up
pollutants in the environment to detecting and treating viruses before
they enter the human body.