Internet of Things (IoT) is a technology that connects devices utilizing strong internet connection and communicates with each other by means of data exchange. Most of us are quite familiar with the information, but how about bacteria joining the network?
Before imagining this, let's think how a perfect IoT device should be, what functions it must have? To put it simply, an IoT device must communicate with other devices along with its human overloads. It should store, process and communicate information. It must be able to monitor the immediate environment with dynamic sensors. It requires a built-in motor to perform the functions properly.
There are so many devices that contain all these features, and they are widely available along with the increased use of internet devices from the past two to three years. Low-cost devices are available; some of them are Raspberry Pis, Arduino boards etc.
Raphael Kim and Stefan Poslad design another set of machines with similar functions at the Queen Mary University of London. They discover bacteria communicate efficiently with their build-in engines and biosensors. Not only that, they also store powerful information and possess dynamic processing architecture. On that note, a set of interesting possibilities has been discovered that is using bacteria to create a biological version of the Internet of Things (IoT). Using today’s technology, it is actually possible to give the idea a shape.
The whole idea came into existence from the way bacteria store information: which is also a great area of research that needs a light to put on. Like much other research, it also started with the famous Escherichia coli. The research found E.coli and other bacteria can store information within their ring-shaped DNA called plasmids. They transmit that information from one organism to the other following a process called conjugation.
In the bacterial world, this kind of information transmission takes place all the time, creating an interesting network. Kim and Poslad tried to create an internet bio using the concept. They choose E.coli for this experiment due to its extreme agile nature; moreover, they have a built-in engine which has thread-like appendages termed as flagella, it generates thrust. They also have receptors in their cell walls, which sense their immediate environment like light, temperature, special elements etc. The use ribosomes to process the information stored in DNA. Due to their tiny size, it is easier to store valuable information that can otherwise be difficult using human-made technologies.
In the field of bacterial research, E. coli are used since they can easily be manipulated. Biotechnology tools have become cheaper and available with the fundamental movement of DIY biology techniques. For example, there is an Amino lab, which is a genetic engineering kit for school children. They can reprogram E. coli to make them glow in the dark, and so many other things can be done with the kit.
The biological reprogramming is called biohacking which shows the enormous potential of bio internet of things (IoT). On that note, Kim and Poslad say bacteria could be programmed and developed in various environments like the sea to program smart cities for gathering data, sensing the level of toxins and pollutants, for undertaking bioremediation processes etc.
Bacteria can be reprogrammed to treat different diseases. Scientists suggest Harbouring DNA can encode useful hormones; for example, bacteria can swim to a particular location in the human body. They can also produce and release hormones triggered by the internal sensor of the microbes’.
It is not that simple how it sounds. Scientists are spending sleepless nights thinking about how to use bacteria as vectors for various diseases. One shortcoming of the process is bacteria do not have GPS to track so they can be lost at any time. In the technical Internet of Things (IoT) the communication is possible with the help of a strong internet connection, which is another issue in bio Internet of Things as the communication initiator has not decided yet.
Kim and Poland offer a bio-internet concept that creates and releases a message but the end-point is sometimes confusing. The information generated by bio internet can end up anywhere as the bacterial bio network is extremely vast. It has been observed by the scientists that information can be transferred through the conjugation process to yeast, plants and mammalian cells.
Evolution has a prominent role to play here, as its natural forces control all the living things. The process of evolution controls everything via mutation and selection, where it is extremely difficult to predict the probable outcomes.
Kim and Poslad acknowledged a lot of issues that are yet to be solved in bacteria network to create a full-proof bio internet of things driven by bacteria. The whole research was concluded with some understatement. They are hopeful of solving the issue in the near future. So getting a bacteria driven bio internet of things is just a matter of time.
Tanaya is a Senior Content Developer at IoT Avenue who helped to build the content of the site along with several other sites with her compassionate SEO driven content. She is also a HubSpot, certified Content Marketer. She brings her five years of experience to her current role, where she is dedicated to developing the content of different websites.
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