Scientists in the US claim to have developed the world's first "biological computer" that is made from biomolecules and can decipher images encrypted on DNA chips.
A team from the Scripps Research Institute in California and the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology claims it has created the computing system using bio-molecules, 'Angewandte Chemie' journal reported.
In the research, when suitable software was applied to the biological computer, the scientists found that it could decrypt, separately, fluorescent images of Scripps Research Institute and Technion logos. And, although DNA has been used for encryption in the past, this is the first experimental demonstration of a molecular cryptosystem of images based on DNA computing, say the scientists led by Prof Ehud Keinan.
"In contrast to electronic computers, there are computing machines in which all four components are nothing but molecules," Prof Keinan said. "For example, all biological systems and even entire living organisms are such computers. Every one of us is a biomolecular computer, a machine in which all four components are molecules that 'talk' to one another logically," he said.
The hardware and software in these devices, Keinan notes, are complex biological molecules that activate one another to carry out some predetermined chemical work. The input is a molecule that undergoes specific, predetermined changes, following a specific set of rules (software), and the output of this chemical computation process is another well-defined molecule.
But, what a biological computer looks like? "This computer is built by combining chemical components into a solution in a tube. Various small DNA molecules are mixed in solution with selected DNA enzymes and ATP. The latter is used as the energy source of the device.
"It's a clear solution -- you don't really see anything. The molecules start interacting upon one another, and we step back and watch what happens. And by tinkering with the type of DNA and enzymes in the mix, researchers can fine-tune the process to a desired result," said the scientists.
Added Keinan in a statement: "Our biological computing device is based on the 75-year-old design by the English mathematician, cryptanalyst, and computer scientist Alan Turing."