Sunday, May 02, 2004

Neat and Frightening in a Star Trek Sort of Way... 

A recent paper in Nature (here's the article - for which you will probably rtequire a subscription - and here's a news account for which you will not) describes the work of Yaakov Beenenson and others towards a DNA computer which accepts biological input and gives biological output. These bio-in/bio-out computers are important because they fortell a world in which drugs can be treated by small molecules already circulating in the body. The basic idea is that a strand of DNA can be synthesized which reponds uniquely to a particular type of messenger RNA (perhaps those endemic to certain types of cancer). The presence of the target mRNA will trigger the DNA to respond in some tailorable way, perhaps by releasing a particular drug molecule, and thus leading to nearly the minimal dose of drugs necessary to achieve therapeutic effects.

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