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Genetically engineered bacteria have learned to play tic-tac-toe

E. coli bacteria modified to act like electronic components called memristors can be set up to act as a simple neural network and trained to play noughts and crosses

Life 13 May 2022

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Wells of bacteria representing a tic-tac-toe grid

Alfonso Jaramillo/University of Valencia

For the first time, humans have played tic-tac-toe – also known as noughts and crosses – with bacteria. These were no ordinary bacteria, but E. coli extensively genetically modified and set up to act as a simple neural network, a form of artificial intelligence.

This approach could have all kinds of applications, from creating living materials capable of learning to making “smart” microbiomes, says Alfonso Jaramillo at the University of Valencia in Spain.

He and his team started with an E. coli strain genetically …