Researchers at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem have built a molecular calculator that uses enzymes to perform calculations. The team believe enzyme-powered computers could eventually be implanted into the body and used to, for example, tailor the release of drugs to a specific person’s metabolism.
Enzymes are already used to assist calculations using specially encoded DNA. These DNA computers could one day surpass the speed and power of existing silicon computers because they can perform many calculations in parallel and pack a vast number of components into a tiny space.
But this enzyme computer is not designed for speed – it can take several minutes to perform a calculation. Rather, it might eventually be incorporated into bio-sensing equipment and used, for example, to monitor and react to a patient’s response to particular dosages of a drug.
“We feel you could implant an enzyme computer into the body and use it to calculate an entire metabolic pathway,” explains Itamar Willner.
“If such counters could be engineered inside living cells, then we can imagine them playing a role in applications such as intelligent drug delivery, where a therapeutic agent is generated at the site of a problem,” says Martyn Amos from University of Exeter, UK. “Counters would also offer a biological ‘safety valve’, to prevent engineered cells proliferating in an uncontrolled fashion.”
Details in New Scientist.