This may be how Star Trek's Borg got started — living organisms merged with electronic components to create a living computer of sorts. Because computer components are becoming smaller and smaller, they are becoming increasingly difficult to manufacture, says Popular Science's Clay Dillow. Researchers at the University of Leeds in the UK teamed up with investigators at the Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology to experiment with the use of a microorganism — Magnetospirilllum magneticum, to be precise — as a living computer component. This particular bacterium is magnetic, Dillow says, and when it eats iron, it generates magnetite. "By feeding the bacteria iron and manipulating the way they colonize, the researchers think they can essentially grow tiny magnets that could serve as components in the minuscule hard drives of the future," he adds.
The researchers have also been working on producing electrical wires that could be implanted throughout a network of bacteria to allow for the exchange of information through cell membranes. This could lead to nanoscale computing or even a kind of "biocomputer" that could do anything from aiding surgery to living inside the human body, Dillow says.