Get Ready For Pills Programmed To Respond To Your Cells’ Needs

Smart pills can already track whether you’re taking your medication and help regulate your bowel movements.

The next evolution: programmable smart pills that tailor medical treatments in response to signals from individual cells.

The preprint server arXiv recently published a paper describing work that could lead to the creation of such pills — and they have to potential to forever change what it means to be human.

Molecular Computation

On Wednesday, MIT Tech Review ran a compelling overview of the research. According to that report, researchers from the University of Chicago figured out a way to trick strands of DNA into behaving like switches — a development in a field known as molecular computation.

The hope is that we can combine these switches into logic gates — the same basic computational building blocks that power the electronics in your computer or smartphone.

Eventually, the Chicago researchers imagine, we could  incorporate those DNA-powered computers into pills, programming them to keep watch on our bodies and release medications in response to signs of distress from individual cells.

This research is interesting on a number of levels. Not only could it lead to incredible medical treatments, it also conjures up visions of a future in which tiny computers reside alongside the natural cells and microflora in the human body — a development that could call into question what exactly it means to be human.