If DNA can "compute," then maybe it can "evolve" too?!

From: Ed.Babinski@furman.edu
Date: Thu Jan 13 2000 - 19:31:52 EST

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    > http://news.excite.com/news/ap/000113/01/dna-computer
    >Scientists Create `DNA Computer'
    >Updated 1:22 AM ET January 13, 2000
    >By RICK CALLAHAN, Associated Press Writer
    >Scientists have created a "DNA computer" from strands of synthetic DNA
    >coaxed into solving relatively complex calculations, according to a report
    >in today's issue of the journal Nature.
    >The short-lived chemical computer has no immediate practical applications,
    >but it nudges the fledgling technology of DNA computing further out of
    >of science fiction and into the realm of the possible, the University of
    >Wisconsin-Madison researchers said.
    >"It's kind of a non-automated computer - an abacus of sorts - but it's an
    >approach we're confident can be automated like a conventional computer,"
    >said Lloyd Smith, a professor of chemistry.
    >Conventional computing is driven by computer chips, but that technology is
    >fast approaching the limits of miniaturization. Scientists dream of using
    >the vast storage capacity that enables DNA and its chemical cousin RNA to
    >hold the complex blueprints of living organisms.
    >While other researchers have had success with DNA computing, in most of
    >those tests the DNA was suspended in liquid-filled test tubes.
    >Smith's team, on the other hand, tethered the DNA to a solid surface. That
    >simplified the technology, though it remains too rudimentary to be turned
    >into large DNA computers capable of tackling problems as complex as those
    >solved by conventional computers.
    >The Wisconsin researchers coded DNA strands to contain all possible
    >solutions to a problem Smith likens to four people each ordering a pizza
    >with four combinations of toppings - a problem with 16 possible answers.
    >After years of work, his team made several of the computers, each composed
    >of about 100 trillion synthetic DNA strands that repeatedly solved the
    >problem, though with human help.
    >Smith and his colleagues began by arranging the synthetic DNA's genetic
    >coding - represented by the letters A, T, C and G - in different
    >combinations that represented the numerical solutions to the problem.
    >Those DNA strands were fastened to a piece of glass covered with a thin
    >sheet of gold, then bathed repeatedly in different solutions of enzymes
    >interacted with the DNA to weed out the wrong answers.
    >Each "computer" withstood several different calculations over a few days,
    >Smith said.
    >Since DNA computing was first demonstrated in 1994, fewer than a dozen
    >research teams have launched molecular computing projects. Together, they
    >have a combined budget of only about $1 million, said John Reif, a
    >of computer science at Duke University and director of the Consortium of
    >Biomolecular Computing.
    >"There are multiple ways of using biotechnology to compute. It's not
    >predictable which one is best, which one will emerge as the leader just
    >isn't clear at this point," Reif said.
    >Laura F. Landweber, an assistant professor of biology at Princeton
    >University, is leading a team working to exploit RNA's computing
    >Her team recently fashioned RNA strands that processed complex problems
    >similar to those that chess players encounter.
    >While Smith's team produced a chemical computer that tackled a problem
    >16 possible solutions, the Princeton RNA computer searched through 512
    >possible answers, she said. The research will be published this year in
    >journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
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