Sunday, July 5, 2009
Living Cells as Chemical Computers
For years the computer metaphor has been used to try to better explain aspects of human-brain function. Now, potentially every cell in the body may be functioning somewhat like a computer. At least that seems to be the perception of Dennis Bray in his new book entitled: Wetware: A Computer in Every Living Cell. In a nutshell (as summarized by Graham Lawton in NewScientist Opinion), living cells are chemical computers. They take information from the environment and process it to produce behavioural "outputs". The processing units are proteins, which perform all the same operations as the logic gates of a computer. Inputs from the environment cause the proteins to flip shape, to aggregate, and to chemically modify other proteins in a cascade of information processing that sweeps through the cell until it reaches effector proteins that make the cell move or change shape . . . Bray's book is available on Amazon.com.