An international team of scientists have created the world's first biological computer that is made from biological molecules and can decode images stored and encrypted within DNA.
Built by U.S. and Israeli researchers from the Scripps Research Institute in California and Technion-Israel Institute of Technology have created a computing system from a mixture of DNA molecules, enzymes and ATP, the substance that gives energy for human cells. The computer was able to decrypt information from a DNA chip.
Using DNA to store date isn't a difficult thing to do after all DNA is primarily used to store genetic data but this is the first time a computer was used to decode information. The molecular computer isn't similar to desktop PCs or laptops, rather it can be compared to a simple Turing device.
"In contrast to electronic computers, there are computing machines in which all four components are nothing but molecules," Professor Ehud Keinan said.
"For example, all biological systems and even entire living organisms are such computers. Every one of us is a biomolecular computer, a machine in which all four components are molecules that 'talk' to one another logically," he said.
The original Turing machine used a long strip of paper that contains data and instruction. The data is fed into the machine and the software decides what should be done to the data. The machine that Keinan and company created employs a similar method. The researchers created a mixture of molecules that can perform a set of instructions on a helix of DNA. Images are encoded in a DNA chip and the biological computer decodes the images into fluorescent images. The power source is ATP or adenosine triphosphate that powers the metabolism of every cell in the human body.
The team says biomolecular computers aren't going to replace electronic computers any time soon. Instead the computers will be used for large-scale and long-term storage.
"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."
Another advantage to these devices is that they can interact directly with other biological devices and even with living creatures Major computer companies have expressed interest in the development of DNA-based computing systems. The final paper appears in a German journal of chemistry, Angewandte Chemie