Killing a cell is a relatively straightforward affair, but selectively repairing damaged DNA is far more tricky.

It is amazing to think that the powerful electronics found in computers are based on networks of extremely basic components: switches that turn on or off depending on input variables. It is also amazing to learn that scientists are now building similar switches from DNA. By joining together carefully selected genes and regulatory sequences, researchers are able to construct artificial 'circuits' that can sense particular conditions or signals within a cell, and respond accordingly.

Netsensor is a project funded by the European Commission under the 6th Framework Programme, bringing together a multidisciplinary team with expertise in systems biology, protein design, cell biology, cancer therapeutics and viral biology.

The p53 pathway is implicated in almost all tumour types. The primary objective of Netsensor is to build a gene network which will detect several steps in the p53 pathway, identify the step that is not working correctly and then selectively respond, either by killing the cell or by repairing a mutant gene, if this is the case. Netsensor will demonstrate that simple gene networks can sense errors in complex cell signalling pathways and react to them. Such systems could have widespread medical application in diagnostics, drug delivery, highly targeted treatments and gene therapy. And from these simple networks perhaps one day medicine will have a tool as powerful as our computers are today.

36 months

EU Funding
1,320,320 Euro

Project Cost
1,989,840 Euro

Project reference
Contract No 12948 (NEST)

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