12 Jul 2011

DNA computer tackles effort with code of living

Every once in a while at FierceBiotech IT, we like to dip into what's happening in wet labs--especially when it involves computer science. And perhaps there's no better convergence of wet lab experiments and computer science than the DNA computer, the most sophisticated of which was detailed recently in the journal Science.
Developed at Caltech, this marvel consists of 74 strands or DNA put into a dozen gates that control their movements based on logic similar to that found in conventional computers, according to a story in Bloomberg. The DNA computers aren't nearly as fast as their silicon-based brethren, but their potential applications include interacting with components in living cells, and that could lead to new ways to develop drugs or find signs of disease.
"There are many potential applications," Erik Winfree, a professor of computer science and bioengineering at Caltech, told Bloomberg. "People built a PC and didn't know what they'd be good for. Then programs like spreadsheets and word processors came around, and the builders were surprised by these applications we now don't know how to live without."
Winfree's research "is crossing the gulf between chemistry in the laboratory and chemistry in the cell," USC computer scientist Leonard Adleman, a pioneer of programming a mathematical equation into DNA, said, as quoted by the LA Times. The goal is no longer to be massively fast, or to do a lot of operations. The goal is to be able to carry out computations and algorithms in a wet molecular environment."

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