The plan is to come up with one or two super phages that will hit multiple

The plan is to come up with one or two super phages

This preview shows page 72 - 74 out of 84 pages.

The plan is to come up with one or two super-phages that will hit multiple strains of Pseudomonas . In effect, these phages will be giant self-replicating drug mole- cules that automatically calibrate the size of their dose—for, when all of the target bacteria have been killed, they can no lon- ger breed. The benefit, from the patient’s pointofview, ishelp foran infection thatis currently untreatable except, perhaps, by getting on a plane to Warsaw or Tbilisi. From the firm’s point of view, an equally important benefit is that synthetic viruses can be patented. Wild onescannot. Dr Farah’s team began work with 300 variegated samples of their target, and 25 strains of an appropriate phage. They se- quenced the genomes of all the bugs and all the phages and tested how well each phage did againsteach bug. They then searched for correlations be- tween the efficacy of an attack and the ge- neticsequencesofthe bacterium and virus involved. These data letthem design a new generation of phages and try again—pro- ducingevermore efficaciousviruses. Being an effective bacterium-killer is not enough. Now, the team is adding other properties. One is an ability to disrupt bio- films. These are sheet-like colonies formed by Pseudomonas (and other bacterial spe- cies) over the surface of the tissue they are infecting. Biofilmsare defensive structures. Bybandingtogetherto form them, bacteria make it harder for viruses to attack and harderfordrugsto penetrate. Dr Farah also hopes to add what might be called resistance to resistance, for—just as has happened with antibiotics—natural selection will inevitably shape how the Synthetic biology Strange medicine La Jolla Awayto treatbacterial infections with artificial viruses Set phages to “kill”
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How good are computers at learning to play computer games? The chart below shows the performance of a machine using artificial intelligence to play a selection of classic video games, compared with that of a professional human tester. The work—presented in Nature —is more than just a bit of fun. It demonstrates the power of modern “machine learning” techniques, which allow machines to figure things out for themselves. The computer was not given any information about the rules of the games. Instead, like a human, it inferred how to play by watching the screen and the score, figuring out con- cepts like “alien” and “power up” for itself. Such self-teaching algorithms are a hot topic for computing firms, which use them for everything from facial recognition to targeted advertising. Google is particularly keen: it bought Deepmind, the company behind the work, for a rumoured price of $400m last year. Computers, gaming The Economist February 28th 2015 Science and technology 73 2 S MACK! You’ve managed violently to halta mosquito snackingon yourblood.
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