Chinese scientists have made a significant breakthrough in the field of DNA-based computing, according to a paper published in Nature. Led by Lv Hui and his team, researchers have developed a liquid, programmable-DNA-based computer that has the ability to process billions of different computing circuits, similar to how CPUs are used in current systems.
One of the key advantages of DNA computing is its ability to store large amounts of data in a very small space. With a potential storage capacity of up to 1 billion gigabytes per cubic millimeter, DNA computing is well-suited for memory-intensive tasks. The researchers believe that harnessing DNA as an information processing system could be highly beneficial.
Another advantage of DNA computing is its flexibility. Traditional computing systems are based on a binary system, where information is encoded in either a zero or a one. However, DNA computing utilizes the four essential DNA molecules – adenine, thymine, guanine, and cytosine (ATGC) – to store and process information. This allows for more condensed combinations of information, such as encoding 00, 01, 10, and 11 as A, T, G, and C.
To manipulate DNA as a computing mechanism, the researchers took advantage of the specific manner in which DNA molecules bind to each other. For example, adenine pairs with thymine, and guanine pairs with cytosine. By designing DNA strands with specific sequences, the researchers were able to control the connections between the strands and perform various computations.
To achieve even greater control over the system as it scales up, the researchers used a concept called DNA origami. This involves designing DNA sequences in such a way that they can fold into specific 2D or 3D shapes. This principle of shape-based control is also seen in topological quantum computing and MC Escher’s work, as well as being fundamental to superconductivity and quantum mechanics.
Applying this principle to DNA origami structures makes it more difficult for compatible DNA strands to adhere to each other, as they need to be folded in specific ways to fit together. This introduces an element of computational puzzle solving into DNA computing.
The researchers demonstrated the capabilities of their DNA computer by using it to compute accurate square root calculations. Additionally, they successfully identified three genetic molecules related to kidney cancer using their DNA computer. Within just two hours, the computer was able to determine which samples possessed the identified molecules and which did not, showcasing its accuracy and potential in the field of genetic analysis.
Looking ahead, advancements in specialized computing forms, such as DNA computing and quantum computing, can greatly contribute to our understanding of the world. It is likely that future computing architectures will consist of a combination of different technologies interoperating seamlessly. While DNA computing may play a crucial role in providing high-density cold storage, its general use as a processing computer remains to be seen. The possibilities are vast, and only time will reveal the true potential of DNA-based computing.