Biocomputers (Biological Computers) Come Closer

Biocomputers constructed entirely of DNA, RNA and proteins can function inside the body as "molecular doctors," according to Harvard’s Yaakov “Kobi” Benenson, a Bauer Fellow in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences’ Center for Systems Biology.

“Each human cell already has all of the tools required to build these biocomputers on its own,” says Harvard’s Benenson. “All that must be provided is a genetic blueprint of the machine and our own biology will do the rest. Your cells will literally build these biocomputers for you.”

Benson and colleagues claim to demonstrate that biocomputers can work in human kidney cells in a culture. Also, they have developed a conceptual framework by which various phenotypes could be represented logically. Phenotypes are characteristics that are measurable and that are expressed in only a subset of the individuals within that population (like blond hair or brown eyes).

In theory, using a biocomputer as the calculation mechanism, researchers could build biosensors or medicine delivery systems that could single out specific cell types in the body. These molecular doctors could target only cancerous cells, for example, ignoring healthy ones.

Biomolecular computers have been proved in concept by researchers at the Weizmann Institute of Science; see the article Biomolecular Computer: The Tiniest Doc?.

Dr. Leonard Adleman, a computer scientist at USC, discussed the possiblity of biocomputers as early as 1994. Science fiction fans didn't have to wait so long; they could read about the intellectual cells in Greg Bear's 1984 novel Blood Music:

His first E. coli mutations had had the learning capacity of planarian worms; he had run them through simple T-mazes, giving sugar rewards. They had soon outperformed planaria...

Removing the finest biologic sequences from the altered E. coli, he had incorporated them into B-lymphocytes, white cells from his own blood...Using artificial proteins and hormones as a means of communication, Vergil had "trained" the lymphocytes in the past six months to interact as much as possible with each other and with their environment - a much more complex miniature glass maze.
(Read more about Greg Bear's intellectual cells)

From the Harvard press release In a first, scientists develop tiny implantable biocomputers via MedGadget.

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