TECHKNOW: Things to come ... Biological nanocomputers

TECHKNOW: Things to come ... Biological nanocomputers - Speed, power and size are the holy trinity of computer development, and makers look for ways to cram more of the first two into less of the third.

by JAMES WOUDHUYSEN, James@Woudhuysen.com
Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

Speed, power and size are the holy trinity of computer development, and makers look for ways to cram more of the first two into less of the third.

The Weizmann Institute of Science, Rehovot, Israel, takes a novel approach. Instead of silicon chips, its nanocomputer uses the data-handling properties of DNA molecules to do calculations on a molecular scale.

By exploiting the biological mechanisms that transfer genetic information from old cells to new, specially coded DNA molecules are read, split and reformed by 'software' DNA. These new molecules are decoded and the results displayed by electrophoresis.

It could be the first step to devices inside the body that detect infections and produce the drugs to deal with them.

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