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Technion Scientists Develop an Advanced Biological Computer

Molecular computer was built entirely of biomolecules.
By Arutz Sheva Staff
First Publish: 5/23/2013, 7:55 PM

Prime Minister in TEchnion lab
Prime Minister in TEchnion lab
Israel news photo: Flash 90

Technion scientists developed and constructed a molecular transducer, which is an advanced computing machine. This molecular computer was built entirely of biomolecules, such as DNA and enzymes that can manipulate genetic codes.

This unprecedented device can compute iteratively, namely, it uses the output as a new input for subsequent computations. Furthermore, it produces outputs in the form of biologically meaningful phenomena, such as resistance of bacteria to various antibiotics.

The researchers demonstrated that their transducer can perform long division of binary numbers by 3 and performed an iterative computation.

This study by Prof. Ehud Keinan, postdoctoral fellows Dr. Tamar Ratner and Dr. Ron Piran of the Schulich Faculty of Chemistry, and Dr. Natasha Jonoska of the department of Mathematics at the University of South Florida, is published today in the prestigious journal Chemistry & Biology of the Cell publishing house.

“The ever-increasing interest in biomolecular computing devices has not arisen from the hope that such machines could ever compete with their electronic counterparts by offering greater computation speed, fidelity and power or performance in traditional computing tasks”, explains Prof. Keinan. “The main advantages of biomolecular computing devices over the electronic computers arise from other properties. As shown in this work and other projects carried out in our lab, these systems can interact directly with biological systems and even with living organisms. No interface is required since all components of molecular computers, including hardware, software, input and output, are molecules that interact in solution along a cascade of programmable chemical events.”

“All biological systems, and even entire living organisms, are natural molecular computers. Every one of us is a biomolecular computer, that is, a machine in which all components are molecules “talking” to one another in a logical manner. The hardware and software are complex biological molecules that activate one another to carry out some predetermined chemical tasks. The input is a molecule that undergoes specific, programmed changes, following a specific set of rules (software) and the output of this chemical computation process is another well defined molecule.”

“Our results are significant because they demonstrate for the first time a synthetic designed computing machine that not only computes iteratively, but also produces biologically relevant results. Although this transducer was employed to solve a specific problem, the general methodology shows that similar devices could be applied for other computational problems.

"In addition to its enhanced computation power, this DNA-based transducer offers multiple benefits, such as the ability to read and transform genetic information, miniaturization to the molecular scale, and the aptitude to produce computational results, which interact directly with living organisms. Therefore, its implementation on a genetic material may not just evaluate and detect specific sequences, it can also alter and algorithmically process the genetic code. This possibility opens up interesting oppotunities in biotechnology, including individual gene therapy and cloning.”