We've got computers that run on a single iodine molecule and transistors made of just a handful of atoms, so why not create electronic components out of tiny strands of DNA? A team of researchers at Hebrew University has for the first time created DNA-based logic gates that could lead to tiny injectable bio-computers capable of making simple calculations inside the body.
Formed from short DNA strands and their complements, the DNA logic gates closely mimic their electronic counterparts by representing one of two states – like the zeros and ones of binary code – depending on the presence of an input. In tests, they modeled a DNA version of an XOR logic gate that generates an output when one of two inputs is present, but not when both or neither is present. By design, the DNA logic gate fluoresced when one of two inputs was present, and accurately stopped fluorescing when both inputs were present.
This kind of reverse biomimicry could have multiple applications, particularly in the realm of drug delivery, possibly even leading to preemptive drugs that live in the body waiting identify and deal with potential problems. Previous attempts at DNA-based computing were too limited to accomplish such a feat, as their DNA strands could be used for a function only once. But the Hebrew University team claims its strands reform after each step.
That means not only that the gates can be used over and over again, but that they can be wired in series, each one creating a new output that serves as the input for the next gate, the basis for complex calculations. The gates would then go back to their usual state, ready to process the next – possibly different – input.
The result could be a new breed of smart drugs that are injected into the body before an injury occurs, waiting to be triggered by enzymes or other catalysts associated with a particular injury or illness. That means – in theory – we might someday be able to create DNA-based computing systems that diagnose and treat common medical problems from within our bodies without our ever knowing it.
remind anyone of nanobots? fear the grey goo!
Agree with TicezyIntelligent
I think this tech is amazing, but the security of this bio-computer should be concerned.
For example, will it be hacked? or being remote controlled by hacker or someone else? If the device is being control, will it do harm to the human body?
Like any new tech there are huge potential risks and benefits... I just figure it will get worked out over the years and tested thoroughly before becoming publicly available.
Imagine though, say it could detect the impact from a car crash and release some hydrogen sulfide (cnn article: http://edition.cnn.com/2009/HEALTH/10/09/cheating.death.suspended.animation/index.html) into your blood at the same time, preserving you for the doctors to treat in the ER. Or say, make your skin turn purple if there's too much carbon monoxide in the air, or supplement your body's naturally-declining nightly release of melatonin to help you sleep soundly. Etc, etc.
Privacy and undetectable-assassination risks notwithstanding, in theory you get a greatly enhanced 'portable' healthcare package that might just grant you a few extra lives.