A team of researchers has developed a platform for bio-computing using enzymes as assistants in DNA-based molecular computing. The scientists aim to utilize this technology in the development of devices that can navigate within the patient’s bloodstream for simultaneous diagnosis and treatment, in addition to various other medical applications.
Bio-computing is an interdisciplinary field that combines computer science and the biological sciences to develop computational tools for analyzing and understanding biological data. It employs techniques such as artificial intelligence and big data analysis to comprehend biological processes and advance new medical treatments and diagnoses.
The research team has successfully created a DNA-based electrical circuit within test tubes, and they have announced the details of their study in a recent research article published in the journal “Nature Communications.”
Biological computing technology is experiencing rapid growth to meet emerging needs such as data storage and autonomous systems. The progress in this field relies on continuous research and the development of biological processors to address various requirements.
Biological computing is typically performed using either living cells or non-living molecules. However, living cells, such as bacteria, have advantages like self-feeding and self-healing capabilities, but redirecting cells towards biological computing is challenging.
Non-living molecules can solve some of the issues but they generate weak “output signals” that are difficult to control and regulate. Moreover, traditional computers also have limitations in their ability to interact with living organisms and cannot naturally heal themselves.
The term “output signals” refers to signals emitted by an electronic or electrical device and used to control other devices. They are employed in various applications such as industrial automation, robotics, home appliances, and many other applications.
Implantable bio-computing devices require a constant power supply and can potentially cause scarring in soft tissues, which has hindered the development of medical devices for extended periods. However, by utilizing biological molecules like DNA or proteins, biological computing can overcome these limitations.
The “Trumpet” platform
The Trumpet platform stands out for its simplicity in molecular biological computing with programmability. Its underlying system is reliable for encrypting all logical gates, which are essential for programming languages. The team also developed an online tool to facilitate platform code design.
The platform utilizes biological enzymes as catalysts for DNA-based molecular computing. The researchers performed operations similar to those carried out by all computer devices within test tubes, using DNA molecules.
The molecules were designed as electronic circuits, and when the positive gate was activated, a phosphorescent glow was produced. The gate acts as a control element for electric current flow in the circuit. When the gate is open, the current does not pass through the circuit, while when it is closed, the current flows, causing the DNA to illuminate and emit a phosphorescent beam when the circuit is complete, much like a light bulb illuminating when testing an electrical circuit board.
Kate Adamala, an assistant professor at the College of Biological Sciences at the University of Minnesota and a participant in the study, described it as a “non-living molecular platform, so we don’t face most of the engineering challenges of living cells,” in a university press release.
Huge potential in the future
The “Trumpet” system offers a new paradigm for bio-computing, aiming to bridge the gap between simple biochemical logic and more independent living cell circuits with other techniques that provide comprehensive bio-computing solutions for innovative goals.
Adamala stated, “While the platform is still in early experimental stages, it holds tremendous potential for the future. Its applications can range from pure medical applications, such as repairing damaged neural connections or controlling prosthetic limbs, to more science fiction-like applications such as entertainment or enhanced learning and memory.”
The “Trumpet” platform can be used in medical diagnosis and complex therapies within the body. For example, the biological circuit can detect low insulin levels in a diabetic patient and activate proteins to produce the required insulin.
The platform is utilized for developing vital medical applications for early cancer diagnosis and providing diagnosis and treatment for chronic diseases. Its applications can also be incorporated into miniature and small devices small enough to be injected into the patient’s bloodstream, enabling various future applications such as enhancing human memory. Therefore, this technology has the potential to revolutionize the fields of medicine and computing.