A pair of scientists at the University of Rochester has built some of the first DNA computer "hardware" ever: logic gates made of DNA.
Most surprising about Animesh Ray and Mitsu Ogihara's recent work is that they made the DNA logic gates using only the most commonplace biological laboratory techniques, such as DNA ligation and gel electrophoresis.
"There is absolutely nothing fancy in what we have done," Ray says. "The techniques we've used are the same ones that thousands of biologists use every day in their labs." Ray, an assistant professor of biology, and Ogihara, an assistant professor of computer science, took fellow researchers by surprise with their announcement at the recent First International Conference on Computational Molecular Biology in Santa Fe, N.M.
Ray and Ogihara's logic gates rely not on electrical signals to perform logical operations -- as do logic gates in today's computers -- but rather on DNA codes. Ogihara says that it could be several years before the DNA logic gates are actually incorporated into a working DNA computer. In the meantime, he and Ray will explore the conditions that allow for the most accurate and efficient DNA computation.
The building blocks of all today's computers, logic gates are tiny structures that convert the endless series of binary data coursing through every computer into a series of signals that a computer uses to perform its operations. Today's logic gates process electronic signals from transistors made of materials like silicon, converting two input signals into one output signal in a way that allows a computer to perform complex operations. Up to now, the only logic gates used for computing have been electronic structures that detect signals coming from transistors.
Ray and Ogihara's DNA logic gates open up whole new
possibilities, since they mark the first step toward building a DNA
Contact: Steve Bradt
University of Rochester