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Artificial cells pass the Turing test

Posted: 1 February 2017 | By Darcie Thompson-Fields

Scanning electron micrograph of Escherichia coli

Scientists have created artificial cells that are capable of convincing natural cells that they are real.

Inspired by the Turing test, a study in the journal American Central Science (ACS) saw scientists create artificial single-cell organisms able to convince natural cells that they are real.

The Turing Test is a test for intelligence in a computer, requiring that a human being should be unable to distinguish the machine from another human being by using the replies to questions put to both.

“We have been interested in the divide between living and non-living chemical systems for quite some time now, but it was never really clear where this divide fell,” one of the team, Sheref S. Mansy from the University of Trento, Italy, told ResearchGate.

“All cells engage in some form of chemical communication. If we could build an artificial cell that can trick a natural cell into “thinking” that it is talking to another natural cell, then we would have made a big step forward in constructing a more life-like chemical system.”

Mansy and his team created artificial cells, made from cell-like structures packed with their own DNA instructions.

The artificial cells showed that they were listening to the natural bacterial cells by glowing. And the bacterial cells responded by releasing chemical signals themselves.

Whilst there is still a way to go in the research into artificial cells, Mansy ishopeful that artificially created cells could be used to clear infections such as E. Coli.

“We also found that artificial cells can interfere with the signalling of pathogenic bacteria,” Dr Mansy said. “If developed further, such artificial cells could be used to disrupt biofilms and thus help to clear infections”.

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