We've all heard our brain likened to a computer. But professor Jian-Jun Shu and his students at Nanyang Technical University are taking that comparison quite literally.

Shu and his team at the university's School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering have proposed a way to use DNA strands for computing operations.

Their article “DNA-Based Computing of Strategic Assignment Problems,” was recently published in the journal Physical Review Letters.

Shu points out that the human body performs computations that are naturally more faster than even the fastest silicon-based computer.

"No matter how fast tomorrow's conventional silicon-based computer can become," their article states,"in order to solve specific classes of problems, it may take the fastest silicon-based computer months or even years to process the calculations. This is mainly due to the serial computing nature of the conventional silicon-based computer."

So Shu and his students manipulated stands of DNA at the test-tube level. They found that they could fuse strands together, cut them and perform operations that would affect DNA's ability to store information.

“Silicon-based computing relies on a binary system,” Shu told PhysOrg.com. “With DNA-based computing, you can do more than have ones and zeroes. DNA is made up of A, G, C, T, which gives it more range. DNA-based computing has the potential to deal with fuzzy data, going beyond digital data.”

Shu says that DNA-based computing is currently in the most elementary stages and that more human manipulations must be done.

Credit: E.M. Pasieka/Science Photo Library/Corbis