During the development of PACE, several ideas concerning the possible implementation of complex computations using protocells have been developed. Different views have been confronted and the discussions emerging within PACE meetings helped shaping some potential applications of protocells (replicating or not) within the context of computation. The UPF group for example has been exploring potential scenarios for protocell computation as an integrative part of our understanding of protocell dynamics. Part of this study involved considering the impact of replication on computation, more specifically how using cell division as a computation can contribute to expanding our views of information processing in biology.
One of the key aspects of the exploration of potential applications of protocells (and cells in general) to computations involved the problem of how to avoid the standard mapping made within synthetic biology among electronic (switching, combinatorial) circuits and cellular designs. The problem of wiring becomes a hard one as soon as we realize that each new wire implies using a new different molecule (proteins when dealing with E coli or yeast) in order to communicate elements either within or between cells. The UPF group found a general solution to this problem suggesting that there are alternative forms of defining computations. We expect these ideas to be applied in a near future. This is currently being a major area of research and will benefit from the join efforts made both within PACE and our new EU project CELLCOMPUT.
Synthetic protocell biology: from reproduction to computation
Ricard V. Solé, Andreea Munteanu, Carlos Rodriguez-Caso and Javier Macía
Phil. Trans. Roy. Soc. Lond. ser. B 362, 1727-1739 (2007)
Neutral fitness landscapes in signalling networks
Pau Fernández and Ricard V. Solé
Journal of the Royal Society Interface 4, 41-47 (2007)
Distributed robustness in cellular networks: insights from evolved digital circuits
Javier Macía and Ricard V. Solé
Journal of the Royal Society Interface, in press.