Feeds

Bio-boffins create world's first digital STD

Without the unpleasant burning sensation

SANS - Survey on application security programs

A bacterium that in humans can cause genital pain, itching, and a burning sensation while urinating has become the subject of the first-ever complete software simulation of an entire organism, the New York Times reports.

The simulation is the work of a team of boffins from Stanford University and the J. Craig Venter Institute, headed by Stanford's Markus Covert. Their research was published on Friday in the journal Cell.

The bacterium in question, known by the snicker-inducing name Mycoplasma genitalium, is a parasite that lives in the genital and respiratory tracts of humans and other primates, and we're sorry to report that it can be transmitted sexually.

It was chosen for the computer simulation project not for its charm, however, but for its simplicity. The M. genitalium genome contains just 525 genes, making it the world's smallest free-living bacterium.

By comparison, E. coli, another bacterium that's often used in laboratory experiments, contains 4,288 genes. Humans have upwards of 20,000.

But even modeling an organism as tiny as M. genitalium was challenging. The simulation was designed to model a whole cell, including all of its molecular components and their interactions.

"Right now, running a simulation for a single cell to divide only one time takes around 10 hours and generates half a gigabyte of data," Covert told the paper.

Developing the model hasn't been easy, either. In February 2010, Covert announced that he hoped to have it completed "in a matter of months." No such luck.

The researchers hail their breakthrough as an important steppingstone in the use of computer-aided design for bioengineering and medicine.

Most biological experiments are aimed at figuring out the function of a single gene at a time, Covert said, but that approach isn't sufficient to gain insight into more complex biological processes, such as cancer.

"Many of the issues we're interested in these days aren't single-gene problems. They're the complex result of hundreds or thousands of genes interacting," Covert said.

While the current research falls far short of simulating such a complex system, it's a step in the right direction. The hope is that in the future, digital models of cells will be used for experimentation, drug discovery, and even the creation of new organisms.

Covert and his team aren't shy about spreading the digital bacteria around. Anyone who might be interested in observing the nasty bug on their own can access the project's website to read further information and download the data and source code used in the research.

"You don't really understand how something works until you can reproduce it yourself," said Jayodita Sanghvi, one of the co-authors of the research paper. ®

3 Big data security analytics techniques

More from The Register

next story
Most Americans doubt Big Bang, not too sure about evolution, climate change – survey
Science no match for religion, politics, business interests
KILLER SPONGES menacing California coastline
Surfers are safe, crustaceans less so
Discovery time for 200m WONDER MATERIALS shaved from 4 MILLENNIA... to 4 years
Alloy, Alloy: Boffins in speed-classification breakthrough
LOHAN and the amazing technicolor spaceplane
Our Vulture 2 livery is wrapped, and it's les noix du mutt
Liftoff! SpaceX Falcon 9 lifts Dragon on third resupply mission to ISS
SpaceX snaps smartly into one-second launch window
STEALTHY NANOROBOTS dress up as viruses, prepare to sneak into YOUR BODY
Cloaking techniques nicked from viruses tackle roadblocks on way to medical frontier
Elon Musk's LEAKY THRUSTER gas stalls Space Station supply run
Helium seeps from Falcon 9 first stage, delays new legs for NASA robonaut
prev story

Whitepapers

Mobile application security study
Download this report to see the alarming realities regarding the sheer number of applications vulnerable to attack, as well as the most common and easily addressable vulnerability errors.
3 Big data security analytics techniques
Applying these Big Data security analytics techniques can help you make your business safer by detecting attacks early, before significant damage is done.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Securing web applications made simple and scalable
In this whitepaper learn how automated security testing can provide a simple and scalable way to protect your web applications.
Combat fraud and increase customer satisfaction
Based on their experience using HP ArcSight Enterprise Security Manager for IT security operations, Finansbank moved to HP ArcSight ESM for fraud management.