DNA Computers Can Grow Itself- Store More and Be Faster Then Conventional Computers (Important) (Download PDF)


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Scientists have designed new, super-fast computer made of DNA molecules that grows as it computes & can outperform all standard systems in solving practical problems. Researchers from University of Manchester showed feasibility of engineering universal turing machine (UTM) - computer that can be programmed to compute anything any other device can process. Electronic computers are form of UTM.

Image of DNA Computers

Image of DNA Computers

Image of DNA Computers

Need to New Computing Technology

  • Last year research group IDC predicted that we’ll be creating more than 160 zettabytes per year by 2025.
  • Modern computers & silicon chips have served well, but w/all this data soon need more than they can offer.
  • One of potential new materials for faster computation and denser memory is deoxyribonucleic acid or DNA.

Advantages of DNA

  • In 1961, Richard Feynman was talking abt potential for sub-microscopic computers, & 1stattempt at using DNA for this purpose came in 1994 w/Leonard Adleman.
  • Genetic code is in many ways perfect match for computer. It stores blueprint for making every living creature on this planet.
  • It transmits from one generation to next w/incredible reliability repeatedly, w/many of genes today remaining virtually unchanged for countless generations.
  • DNA is incredibly tough & long-lasting &, if kept under right conditions, it will stay intact for millions of years.

DNA As Storage

  • Researchers have known for long time DNA can be used for data storage.
  • Researchers are working on turning DNA into computer storage. DNA can be treated like standard storage device: Binary code comes from using bases thymine (T), guanine (G), adenine (A) & cytosine (C) to represent 1s (T&G) & 0s (A&C).
  • “Saving” & “Opening” files stored in DNA memory doesn’t work.
  • Its read-only process at moment & information has to be accessed as whole, not in sections.
  • If current computers were like that, it wouldn’t be able to save any new data & would have to open all files in folder at once.
  • Researchers from Stanford University successfully wrote & rewrote one bit of data into bacterial DNA. Their goal is to increase from single bit to 8 bits –byte – of programmable genetic data storage.

Plasmids as Storage Exchange

  • Continuing w/same goal to find & edit specific sections, latest development comes from international collaboration b/w universities in Italy, Sweden & Ireland, where researchers are taking advantage of bacteria & their small rings of DNA called plasmids.
  • Microorganisms “swap” b/w themselves in process known as conjugation.
  • Idea is to “save” data in plasmids trapped in specific location. To “open” these files, researchers send mobile bacteria to visit their trapped counterparts.
  • If bacteria get within each other’s reach, information, in [the] form of DNA, can pass from a donor to a receiver.
  • Idea is to build archive by encoding information in immobile bacteria.
  • Information can be read by mobile bacteria that, by using Molecular Positioning System (MPS, sort of GPS for bacteria), will move towards archive, read information thru conjugation & then deliver such information to 3rd point.
  • Team generated DNA sequence coded for message “Hello World”, which was inserted into group of trapped bacteria & successfully retrieved after conjugation from group of motile bacteria.
Image of DNA Computers VS. Conventional Computers

Image of DNA Computers VS. Conventional Computers

Image of DNA Computers VS. Conventional Computers

Operations in DNA Computers

  • Storage isn’t only application for DNA in computers. DNA can even be “taught” to perform operations.
  • Current computers work on principle of reading code (stored on hard drive) & performing command (using memory & processor.
  • DNA computer has same principle, except hard drive is DNA sequence & processor is enzyme used to copy DNA.
  • DNA computers can “grow”. Not figuratively, but literally. As DNA performs command, it replicates itself & doubles in capacity.
  • Everything happens in tube. No living cells are used, & DNA is entirely synthetic.
  • DNA code is recognised by shorter piece of DNA, which then causes rest of DNA to be copied. Once code is recognised, it can be specifically altered to make new command. This is done by process called PCR [polymerase chain reaction], widely used technique used to copy DNA.
  • Standard electronic computers, when they come to T-junction, have to choose which path to take, whereas [our DNA computer] doesn’t need to choose, as it replicates itself to follow both paths at same time, thus finding answer faster.
  • In DNA computer, each computation is represented by single DNA strand, which allows to utilise many trillions of computations happening at same time.

DNA Clouds

  • Field has come long way since 1994, when Leonard Adleman described 1st successful example of DNA computer.
  • One of technical challenges is to make DNA computations reliable at large scale & minimise number of errors in computations.
  • Large companies are starting to notice potential inside DNA. Microsoft has recently announced its interest in adding DNA storage to their cloud system.
  • DNA computers can also be introduced into living cells.

- Published/Last Modified on: August 16, 2018

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