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Scientists Develop Biological Computer to Encrypt and Decipher Images

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Scripps Research and Technion logos on a DNA chip

As a proof of concept, scientists encrypted the Scripps Research and Technion logos on a single DNA chip, then used software to decrypt separate fluorescent images.

Credit: Keinan Lab / Scripps Research

Scientists at the Scripps Research Institute and the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology have developed a computer made entirely from biomolecules that can decipher images encrypted onto DNA chips. The scientists say their research is the first demonstration of a molecular cryptosystem of images based on DNA computing.

"In contrast to electronic computers, there are computing machines in which all four components are nothing but molecules," says Scripps Research professor Ehud Keinan. He notes the hardware and software in the biological computers are complex biological molecules that activate one another to carry out some predetermined chemical work. The input is a molecule that undergoes specific, predetermined changes, following a specific set of rules, and the output of the chemical computation process is another well-defined molecule. The system is based on a 75-year-old design by Alan Turing.

When appropriate software was applied to the biological computer, it could decrypt fluorescent images of the Scripps Research Institute and Technion logos. Keinan says biomolecular computing devices have advantages over electronic computers in specific applications, such as computing trillions of chemical steps in parallel.

From Scripps Research Institute
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