Crunching data on conventional computers requires electrons. But scientists have been working toward biological computers that can store, retrieve and process data using chemical reactions.
To that end, Jerome Bonnet, a postdoctoral scholar in bioengineering at Stanford University, and his colleagues report today in the journal Science building a transistor out of DNA and RNA. Their research brings bio-computers one step closer to reality. Such devices would not look like the silicon-based computers we know and use today. There would be no keyboard or monitor. Instead, the computations would happen inside a living cell.
In a press release from the university, Drew Endy, assistant professor of bioengineering and the paper's senior author said, "Biological computers can be used to study and reprogram living systems, monitor environments and improve cellular therapeutics."
The bio-computers could be used not only to precisely test drug reactions inside a cell, for example, but could do so over a particular time period and save the information for retrieval or retesting later.