By KIM BELLARD
I was tempted to write about the work being done at Wharton that suggests that AI may already be better at being entrepreneurial than most of us, and of course I’m always interested to see how nanoparticles are starting to change health care (e.g., breast cancer or cancer more generally), but when I saw what researchers at China’s Shanghai Jiao Tong University have done with DNA-based computers, well, I couldn’t pass that up.
If PCs helped change the image of computers from the big mainframes, and mobile phones further redefined what a computer is, then DNA computers may cause us to one day – in the lifetime of some of you — look back at our chip-based devices as primitive as we now view ENIAC.
It’s been almost 30 years since Leonard Adleman first suggested the idea of DNA computing, and there’s been a lot of excitement in the field since, but, really, not the kind of progress that would make a general purpose DNA computer seem feasible. That may have changed.
At the risk of introducing way too many acronyms, the Chinese researchers claim they have developed a general purpose DNA integrated circuit (DIC), using “multilayer DNA-based programmable gate arrays (DPGAs).” The DPGAs are the building blocks of the DIC and can be mixed and matched to create the desired circuits. They claim that each DPGA “can be programmed with wiring instructions to implement over 100 billion distinct circuits.”
They keep track of what is going on using fluorescence markers, which probably makes watching a computation fun to watch.
One experiment, involving 3 DPGAs and 500 DNA strands, made a circuit that could solve quadratic equations, and another could do square roots. Oh, and, by the way, another DPGA circuit could identify RNA molecules that are related to renal cancer. They believe their DPGAs offers the potential for “intelligent diagnostics of different kinds of diseases.”
DNA tracking DNA.Continue reading…