Devices with DNA software may one day be fitted into cells.
DNA has problem-solving power.
"If you wear the right glasses, a lot of what you see inside the cell is computation," says Ehud Shapiro of the Weizmann Institute in Rehovot, Israel. Now Shapiro and his colleagues have turned the computational power of biological molecules to their own ends1.
The researchers have built a machine that solves mathematical problems using DNA as software and enzymes as hardware. A trillion such biomolecular machines - working at more than 99.8% accuracy - can fit into a drop of water.
Cut and paste
The new molecular computers input is a DNA strand. Its letters represent a string of binary symbols - ones and zeroes. The machine answers questions such as whether the input contains an even number of ones.
The computers hardware is two enzymes. One cuts the DNA strands when it recognizes a specific sequence of letters, another sticks DNA snippets back together again. The cutting enzyme makes incisions a few bases shy of its recognition sequence. So its cuts create a range of different DNA molecules, depending on what surrounds the recognition site.
The researchers program each problem by designing DNA software molecules that bind only to a subset of the slices of input DNA. Each software molecule contains a recognition site for the cutting enzyme, and some other DNA letters that determine where on the shortened input molecule the next cut occurs.
The enzymes chomp their way along an input molecule until the calculation is complete - like an early computer processing data encoded on a paper tape. Finally, the joining enzyme attaches one of two output DNA molecules, ending the sequence of reactions and representing the answer to the initial question - yes or no, for example.
"It works better than anything Ive seen, by far," comments Eric Baum, a computer scientist at the NEC Research Institute, Princeton, New Jersey. Baum is sceptical whether DNA computers will ever become useful. "But this is a step in the right direction," he says.
JOHN WHITFIELD | © Nature News Service
Japanese researchers develop ultrathin, highly elastic skin display
19.02.2018 | University of Tokyo
Why bees soared and slime flopped as inspirations for systems engineering
19.02.2018 | Georgia Institute of Technology
For the first time, a team of researchers at the Max-Planck Institute (MPI) for Polymer Research in Mainz, Germany, has succeeded in making an integrated circuit (IC) from just a monolayer of a semiconducting polymer via a bottom-up, self-assembly approach.
In the self-assembly process, the semiconducting polymer arranges itself into an ordered monolayer in a transistor. The transistors are binary switches used...
Breakthrough provides a new concept of the design of molecular motors, sensors and electricity generators at nanoscale
Researchers from the Institute of Organic Chemistry and Biochemistry of the CAS (IOCB Prague), Institute of Physics of the CAS (IP CAS) and Palacký University...
For photographers and scientists, lenses are lifesavers. They reflect and refract light, making possible the imaging systems that drive discovery through the microscope and preserve history through cameras.
But today's glass-based lenses are bulky and resist miniaturization. Next-generation technologies, such as ultrathin cameras or tiny microscopes, require...
Scientists from the University of Zurich have succeeded for the first time in tracking individual stem cells and their neuronal progeny over months within the intact adult brain. This study sheds light on how new neurons are produced throughout life.
The generation of new nerve cells was once thought to taper off at the end of embryonic development. However, recent research has shown that the adult brain...
Theoretical physicists propose to use negative interference to control heat flow in quantum devices. Study published in Physical Review Letters
Quantum computer parts are sensitive and need to be cooled to very low temperatures. Their tiny size makes them particularly susceptible to a temperature...
15.02.2018 | Event News
13.02.2018 | Event News
12.02.2018 | Event News
21.02.2018 | Life Sciences
21.02.2018 | Life Sciences
21.02.2018 | Materials Sciences