Weizmann Institute Sets "Guinness Record"

Eric Cordian emc at artifact.psychedelic.net
Mon Feb 24 20:50:36 PST 2003

The Weizmann Institute has done it again.  Written yet another press
release, that is.

I wasn't even aware Guinness had a record for the smallest biological
computing device.  Have the Guinness people even heard of the Weizmann
people?  One wonders.

In any case, they claim that two spoonfuls of their latest goo is a 600
TeraOP DNA computer.  I'll be more impressed when they port Linux.




REHOVAT, Israel, Feb. 24 (UPI) -- The latest entry in the Guinness Book of
World Records for smallest biological computing device is a microscopic
gadget composed of DNA and enzymes that not only reads DNA for data but
uses it as fuel.

Israeli scientists reported Monday that just two spoonfuls could hold up
to 30 million billion of such molecular computers, which could perform
about 660 trillion operations per second -- nearly 20 times as many as
Japan's Earth Simulator, the most powerful supercomputer now active.

"The long-term goal is to eventually create autonomous, programmable
molecular computing devices that can operate in vivo, eventually inside
the human body, and function as 'doctors in a cell,'" researcher Ehud
Shapiro, a computer scientist at the Weizmann Institute of Science, told
United Press International.

By detecting biochemical anomalies, the micro-computers could consult
"their programmed medical knowledge to direct the synthesis and delivery
of biomolecules that serve as drugs," Shapiro explained.

DNA stores both information -- in the form of the genetic code in humans
-- and energy. "Nature uses DNA for information storage, but does not
exploit it as an energy supply," Shapiro said.

The new device is an advance on a computer made of DNA previously
announced by Shapiro and colleagues about a year ago. The device's input,
output and "software" are composed of DNA molecules, while the hardware is
made of naturally occurring enzymes that can manipulate DNA. When mixed
together in a solution, the hardware and software work together, with the
enzyme regulating the input according to rules encoded on the software

All computers need energy, and the research team's previous DNA computer
used a molecule called adenosine triphosphate, or ATP, the biochemical
whose high-energy phosphate bonds are used by all cells as their standard
fuel. In findings appearing online Feb. 24 in the Proceedings of the
National Academy of Sciences, the scientists said the enzymes regulating
the input molecules can use the energy released to drive calculations.

"Our experiments demonstrate for the first time that we may use a DNA
molecule as an input for computation, and at the same time fuel this
computation by the energy stored in the very same molecule," Shapiro said.
"Such combination, although theoretically conceivable, is practically
impossible with conventional electronic computers."

The computer requires very little energy, the scientists said. For
example, even the hypothetical spoonful releases less than 25 millionths
of a watt as heat. Moreover, the new computer is 50 times faster than

"I would say this is a proof of concept," said IBM researcher Charles
Bennett in Yorktown Heights, N.Y. "I think there's a long way to go from
doing a particular computation like they propose here to making a general
purpose molecular computer that's fast enough and reliable enough and
energetically cheap enough to be useful."

Shapiro admitted that the work remains at a very basic stage, but added
the researchers hope to create even more powerful devices and perhaps
create DNA computers that can work in living cells.

"The main hurdle, which will take a decade or so to overcome, is science's
inability to synthesize 'designer enzymes,'" Shapiro said. "Science does
not know how to create enzymes that meet our needs."

Eric Michael Cordian 0+
O:.T:.O:. Mathematical Munitions Division
"Do What Thou Wilt Shall Be The Whole Of The Law"

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