Step forward for massive DNA computer systems

Step forward for massive DNA computer systems

Technology News |
By Nick Flaherty

Researchers in China have developed a programmable computer using DNA.

The group at Shanghai Jiao Tong University has demonstrated a DNA computer system using DNA integrated circuits (DICs) that can solve quadratic equations with 30 logic gates. 

Published in Nature, the system integrates multiple layers of DNA-based programmable gate arrays (DPGAs). This uses generic single-stranded oligonucleotides as a uniform transmission signal can reliably integrate large-scale DICs with minimal leakage and high fidelity for general-purpose computing.

To control the intrinsically random collision of molecules, the team designed DNA origami registers to provide the directionality for asynchronous execution of cascaded DPGAs. This was used to assemble a DIC that can solve quadratic equations with three layers of cascade DPGAs comprising 30 logic gates with around 500 DNA strands.

A  single DPGA with 24 addressable dual-rail gates can be programmed with wiring instructions to implement over 100 billion distinct circuits. A single-rail gate receives one molecule as an input and generates one molecule as output so the concentration of output increases rapidly when the output is 1 while slowly when the output is 0. A dual-rail gate receives a molecule representing 1 or another molecule representing 1 as an input, and generates one molecule when the output = 0 or another molecule as the output = 1. The output signal is represented by the difference of two output signals. When the output = 1, the output signal increases; when output = 0, the output signal decreases. This means the implementation of a dual-rail XOR gate with AND-OR gates requires six gates.

The team also integrated a DPGA with an analog-to-digital converter to classify disease-related microRNAs. The ability to integrate large-scale DPGA networks without apparent signal attenuation marks a key step towards general-purpose DNA computing.


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