Analog DNA Circuit Makes Mathematical Calculations In A Test Tube

Posted: Aug 24 2016, 6:01am CDT | by , in Latest Science News


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Analog DNA Circuit Makes Mathematical Calculations in a Test Tube
Duke graduate student Tianqi Song and computer science professor John Reif have created strands of synthetic DNA that, when mixed together in a test tube in the right concentrations, form an analog circuit that can add, subtract and multiply as the molecules form and break bonds. While most DNA circuits are digital, their device performs calculations in an analog fashion, without requiring special circuitry to convert signals to zeroes and ones first. Credit: Photo by John Joyner

Scientists have made an analog DNA circuit that makes mathematical calculations in a test tube.

DNA is the basic code of life. The information held within it is used to make everything from a human being to a hare. Yet, in recent times, many researchers have used the letters of the code of life differently.

They have been employed to make small-sized nanocomputers. Strands of synthetic DNA were intermixed in a test tube in the correct dosages. They formed an analog circuit that was able to do mathematical calculations.

Instead of voltage, the strands of DNA serve as signal carriers and do the calculations. There have been attempts at creating analog DNA circuits that can play tic-tac-toe games and calculate square roots.

Most of the DNA circuits that have been created up until now have been digital. These have information encoded in them in the form of zeroes and ones.

This new form of DNA circuit is an analog one though. This measures the concentrations of DNA molecules in a direct manner. The research effort got published in the August issue of the journal ACS Synthetic Biology.

DNA circuits have a long way to go unlike the electronic circuits we find nowadays. Test tube calculations take eons. While a limited range of calculations can be done using them, nowhere do they even approach the PCs of today.

The thing is that these test tube DNA circuits can be very small and it is here that they have an edge over the modern PCs. Also they function quite well in wet milieus.

Thus these test tube DNA circuits may work perfectly inside cells or the bloodstream. DNA’s natural capacity of zipping and unzipping is utilized here to perform math sums.

The stuff works like Velcro or magnets. Firstly, short pieces of synthetic DNA are created and mixed up in a test tube. The play and dance of single strands and double strands of DNA then go into operation.

This makes the calculations possible. The more sophisticates DNA circuits are able to solve logarithms and exponentials. While conventional computers switched to digital mode a long time ago, these DNA circuits are in an analog form because in this setup they have a distinct advantage over the digital design.

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