Technion, Scripps develop biological computer

Prof. Ehud Keinan has developed a computer composed of DNA molecules and enzymes on a gold-coated chip.

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, which 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 are published this week in the "Journal of the American Chemical Society" by Prof. Ehud Keinan. "An equally significant breakthrough is the incorporation of chips as an integral part of the computer, he says. He notes that a computer is, by definition, a machine made of four components: hardware, software, input and output; and that all current computers are electronic machines comprising a complex composition of metallic and plastic components, wires, transistors, etc., and the software is a sequence of instructions given to the machine in the form of electronic signals.

In contrast to electronic computers, there are computing machines in which all four components are nothing but molecules, says Keinan. For example, all biological systems, and even entire living organisms, are such computers. Every one of us is a bio-molecular 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 solutionyou don't really see anything," Keinan said. "The molecules start interacting upon one another, and we step back and watch what happens." And by tinkering with the type of DNA and enzymes in the mix, scientists can fine-tune the process to a desired result.

"The ever-increasing interest in biomolecular computing devices has not arisen from the hope that such machines could ever compete with electronic computers, which offer greater speed, fidelity, and power in traditional computing tasks," Keinan said. "The main advantages of biomolecular computing devices over electronic computers have to do with other properties."

Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes-online.com - on February 8, 2012

Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd. 2012

 
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