A new DNA-based logic circuit can sense the signs of cancer, compute that a cell is cancerous, and then cause it to self-destruct, researchers say. The cell-level diagnostic system could be used for drug screening or perhaps for disease treatment, killing tumors while leaving healthy cells alone.
In principle, the circuit works like any other logic circuit: It analyzes multiple inputs and makes a decision. In this case, the circuit really consists of genes that can detect up to five cancer-specific molecules and their concentrations. When all five of those characteristics are present, the circuit makes a positive determination, and then it triggers cell death.