Computer Simulates Full Organism for 1st Time

Single-cell Mycoplasma genitalium, now available by hard drive

By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff

Posted Jul 20, 2012 3:55 PM CDT

(Newser) – Maybe they'll computerize an entire human brain one day—or even just a couple of cells. For now, Stanford scientists have created the first-ever software simulation of a full single-cell organism, the New York Times reports. It is incredibly small: a bacterium called the Mycoplasma genitalium, which has the unenviable task of causing sexually transmitted disease. Still, scientists are calling it a first step toward laboratories replacing traditional instruments with computer simulations altogether.

And scientists stumbled on a neat fact—that running a simulation for the division of a single cell took half a gigabyte of data. "I find this fact completely fascinating, because I don’t know that anyone has ever asked how much data a living thing truly holds," wrote Markus Covert, one Stanford scientist. So how about computerizing a bigger organism, like E. Coli or an entire human cell? "I'll have the answer in a couple of years," wrote Covert.

Single-cell bacteria, floating around.
Single-cell bacteria, floating around.   (Shutterstock)
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