The bacterium, with its 525 genes, is far less complex, for example, than another more traditional bacterium used in traditional laboratory experiments, E. coli, which contains 4,288 genes. The researchers said that more complex cells would present significant challenges. Currently it takes about 9 to 10 hours of computer time to simulate a single division of the smallest cell — about the same time the cell takes to divide in its natural environment.
“The real question on our minds is: what happens when we bring this to a bigger organism, like E. coli, yeast or even eventually a human cell?” Dr. Covert said. He noted that E. coli divides every 20 to 30 minutes and that the number of molecular interactions in E. coli is a much higher multiple, which would significantly extend the time required to run the simulation.
“I’ll have the answer in a couple of years,” he wrote.