Technion helps make biological computer

Biological computer composed entirely of DNA molecules and enzymes constructed.

February 8, 2012 23:56
1 minute read.
DNA strand double helix

DNA strand double helix 311. (photo credit: Jerome Walker)

The Technion Israel Institute of Technology and the Scripps Research Institute have developed a biological computer composed entirely of DNA molecules and enzymes constructed on a gold-coated chip that can accept as many as one billion programs. The biomolecules can decipher images encrypted on DNA chips. Although DNA has been used for encryption in the past, this is the first experimental demonstration of a molecular cryptosystem of images based on DNA computing.

The results were published this week in the Journal of the American Chemical Society by Prof. Ehud Keinan.

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“In contrast to electronic computers, there are computing machines in which all four components are nothing but molecules,” Keinan said. “For example, all biological systems, and even entire living organisms, are such computers. Every one of us is a biomolecular computer, that is, a machine in which all four components are molecules ‘talking’ to one another in a logical manner.”

The biological computer is “built” by combining chemical components into a solution in a tube. Various small DNA molecules are mixed in solution with selected DNA enzymes and ATP. The latter is used as the energy source of the device.

“It’s a clear solution, and you don’t really see anything,” Keinan said. “The molecules start interacting upon one another, and we step back and watch what happens.”

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