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Scientists use DNA to perform calculations in a molecular computer @Caltech

Via Caltech News, Computer scientists at Caltech have designed DNA molecules that can carry out reprogrammable computations, for the first time creating so-called algorithmic self-assembly in which the same “hardware” can be configured to run different “software.”

In a paper publishing in Nature on March 21, a team headed by Erik Winfree PhD, Caltech professor of computer science, computation and neural systems, and bioengineering, showed how the DNA computations could execute six-bit algorithms that perform simple tasks. The system is analogous to a computer, but instead of using transistors and diodes, it uses molecules to represent a six-bit binary number (for example, 011001) as input, during computation, and as output.

“Think of them as nano apps,” says Damien Woods, professor of computer science at Maynooth University near Dublin, Ireland, and one of two lead authors of the study. “The ability to run any type of software program without having to change the hardware is what allowed computers to become so useful. We are implementing that idea in molecules, essentially embedding an algorithm within chemistry to control chemical processes.”

The paper is titled “Diverse and robust molecular algorithms using reprogrammable DNA self-assembly.” Co-authors of the paper include Cameron Myhrvold, Joy Hui, and Peng Yin of Harvard University, and Felix Zhou of the University of Oxford. Funding to support this research came from the National Science Foundation and NASA.

Read more at Caltech news.


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