ACS Synthetic Biology published a new study which shows some of the potential processing power of DNA. As part of a Duke University research study, John Reif, along with his team, developed and constructed a DNA calculator in a test tube.
By design, in the proper conditions, the synthetic strands of DNA have the ability to form an analog circuit. As the strands form or break bonds while being mixed in the test tube, the calculator is able to perform mathematical operations such as addition, subtraction, or multiplication.
In the past, researchers have designed several other DNA calculator circuits These prior circuits have math-solving properties as well and their processing power is considerably higher. However, these circuits are digital. All the information they work with is performed in binary, through a long array of ones and zeroes.
The DNA calculator designed by John Reif and his research team performs all its math operations via analog. The current DNA calculator performs its mathematical operations by actually measuring DNA molecule concentration. The calculator then manages the information through signals based on certain DNA strands.
The Future Of An Analog DNA Calculator
The current model of the analog calculator is considerably slower than its digital counterparts. In turn, digital DNA calculator have no chance in keeping up with actual circuits currently being used in the world.
Nevertheless, Reif’s analog DNA calculator is by far the smallest to date. DNA calculators, in general, have the added benefit of not being affected in any way by wet environments. Both traits make DNA calculators potential life savers in future medicine.
Reif and his team hope that the technology they designed will allow humankind to develop microscopic smart devices which can read the information in our bodies, such as in our bloodstream. Apart from diagnosis via data gathering, such a device could be programed to even offer treatment by designing and releasing a certain type of DNA or RNA.
The main application of such a device would be to detect any manner of cancerous mutation, transmit the information to a monitor, and then attempt to generate a substance which gives the innate immune system greater odds in fighting the cancer.
Analog or digital, with further research, the DNA calculator could prove to be one of the most useful tools available to medicine.