Physics of Biology


Cell’s DNA Made a Biocomputer

Authors: George Rajna

Our brains are often compared to computers, but in truth, the billions of cells in our bodies may be a better analogy. The squishy sacks of goop may seem a far cry from rigid chips and bundled wires, but cells are experts at taking inputs, running them through a complicated series of logic gates and producing the desired programmed output. [21] At Caltech, a group of researchers led by Assistant Professor of Bioengineering Lulu Qian is working to create circuits using not the usual silicon transistors but strands of DNA. [20] Researchers have introduced a new type of "super-resolution" microscopy and used it to discover the precise walking mechanism behind tiny structures made of DNA that could find biomedical and industrial applications. [19] Genes tell cells what to do—for example, when to repair DNA mistakes or when to die—and can be turned on or off like a light switch. Knowing which genes are switched on, or expressed, is important for the treatment and monitoring of disease. Now, for the first time, Caltech scientists have developed a simple way to visualize gene expression in cells deep inside the body using a common imaging technology. [18] Researchers at The University of Manchester have discovered that a potential new drug reduces the number of brain cells destroyed by stroke and then helps to repair the damage. [17] Researchers at the University of Connecticut have uncovered new information about how particles behave in our bloodstream, an important advancement that could help pharmaceutical scientists develop more effective cancer drugs. [16] For the past 15 years, the big data techniques pioneered by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, have been revolutionizing biomedical research. On Sept. 6, 2016, JPL and the National Cancer Institute (NCI), part of the National Institutes of Health, renewed a research partnership through 2021, extending the development of data science that originated in space exploration and is now supporting new cancer discoveries. [15] IBM scientists have developed a new lab-on-a-chip technology that can, for the first time, separate biological particles at the nanoscale and could enable physicians to detect diseases such as cancer before symptoms appear. [14] Scientists work toward storing digital information in DNA. [13]

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[v1] 2017-04-14 09:50:39

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