A Programming Language for DNA Sequencing


According to Fast Company's Co.Exist blog a team of researchers at the University of Washington have created a programming language that allows the assembly of DNA molecules on a circuit.
Chemists have always used mathematical models to study how molecules behave in mixtures. “Instead of thinking of this as a descriptive language that allows you to understand the chemistry, we said, we’re going to create a prescriptive language that allows you to program something,” says Georg Seelig, an assistant professor of electrical engineering and computer science at the school.

While there’s no killer app anywhere near ready yet, possible future uses for being able to design and assemble DNA to perform a specified function are wide-ranging. Seelig imagines programming molecules to act as embedded sensors inside cells that could respond to changing conditions, just as internal electronics guide the operation of automobiles or home appliances. For example, he says DNA systems could be instructed to release a drug every certain number of hours or in response to an abnormality detected in a cell. “Cells do things like that all the time. They sense their environment, they respond to it,” he notes.

While impressive in its own right this, like all technology, should be seen as a step which will likely lead to further steps in the same direction. That means that programmable DNA could have broad implications for artificial intelligence, genetic modification, gene therapy and, obviously, for organic computing. It also means that the future just got weirder and more exciting and that science fiction writers just got more interesting possibilities to play with.
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