Can we tune biological systems with the precision and elegance of a tuning fork
William E. Bentley, Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, University of Maryland, 5115 Plant Sciences Building, College Park, MD 20742
Tuning brings into harmony and adjusts for precise functioning. The -omics represent powerful tools for ascertaining function in response to applied stresses or microenvironmental cues. In silico methodologies attempt to capture contextual information, but typically fail to represent dynamical systems. Our desire to describe the system whole is becoming closer to reality than ever before, yet methods to „tune” biological systems are still naive. Our laboratory has for many years developed and employed tools that „tune” biological subsystems. Attempts to consider the complex system architecture are described, but layers of genetic and regulatory information and obscure system features often make cloudy the nodes of influence. Biological system response is often context dependent. Our presentation will describe recent efforts to provide a language or communication system that enables tuning of biological subsystems – for interrogating biochemical pathways, determining protein-protein interactions, for observing molecular responses to device generated stimulii. Systems to precisely control microenvironment are essential. Indeed, many have predicted that the effective interfacing of biology and microfabricated devices will enable remarkable advances in medicine, computing, security, and the environment. But there is a problem – communication in biological and microfabricated systems occurs through different “languages”. Microfabricated devices traditionally communicate through the flow of electrons or, more recently, the transmission of light. Biological systems communicate using ions and small molecules. We will describe our efforts to enlist molecular bioengineering to “translate” the communication between biological and microfabricated systems, in order to tune biology with the precision of a tuning fork.