It might sound like weird science fiction, but scientists have successfully created a living, breathing biocomputer by implanting thousands of DNA-based nanobots into cockroaches. The nanobots are able to complete logic operations within the insects. Just insert and you have a biocomputer.
Okay, maybe it’s a little more complicated than that.
Scientists have created a working logic system inside an insect. This is done by exploiting the way DNA binds to itself and then creating DNA (known as ‘origami robots’) that unravel when meeting a certain cell, a diseased one for example, and use that effect to deliver a targeted drug. That alone doesn’t function as a computer but the scientists involved have added markers to the drugs used and, by changing the way that the nanobots react to each other, are able to perform functions in a manner similar to a computer processor.
The tech was developed by Daniel Levner, a bioengineer at the Wyss Institute at Harvard University, and his colleagues at Bar Ilan University in Ramat-Gan in Isreal, and opens up a world of possibilities for environmental and health applications. They’re not planning on creating an Insect Inside PC at any point, it’s all about the medication. Still, the number of nanobots injected could be increased to give the cockroaches the computing power of about a Commodore 64 or an Atari 800. It’s not much but that used to be a high-end computing solution, once upon a time.
The scientists believe that human trials of the nanobot-delivered targeted medications could start in about 5 years’ time, which sounds good to us. Computing cockroaches definitely don’t sound like they’d give us a warm and fuzzy feeling, unless we had a significantly higher processing potential.