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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Israeli Experts Build DNA Computer

LONDON -- Following Mother Nature's lead, Israeli scientists have built a DNA computer so tiny that a trillion of them could fit in a test tube and perform a billion operations per second with 99.8 percent accuracy.

Instead of using figures and formulas to solve a problem, the microscopic computer's input, output and software are made up of DNA molecules -- which store and process encoded information in living organisms.

"We have built a nanoscale computer made of biomolecules that is so small you cannot run them one at a time. When a trillion computers run together, they are capable of performing a billion operations," Professor Ehud Shapiro of the Weizmann Institute said last week.

It is the first programmable autonomous computing machine in which the input, output, software and hardware are all made of biomolecules. Although too simple to have any immediate applications, it could form the basis of a DNA computer in the future that could potentially operate within human cells to detect potentially disease-causing changes and synthesize drugs to stop them.

DNA can hold more information in a cubic centimeter than a trillion CDs. The double helix molecule that contains human genes stores data on four chemical bases -- known by the letters A, T, C and G -- giving it massive memory capability that scientists are only just beginning to tap into.

"The living cell contains incredible molecular machines that manipulate information-encoding molecules such as DNA and RNA [its chemical cousin] in ways that are fundamentally very similar to computation," said Shapiro, head of the team that developed the computer.

"Since we don't know how to effectively modify these machines or create new ones just yet, the trick is to find naturally existing machines that, when combined, can be steered to actually compute."