- Scientists have developed a unique device that can be operated by a personal computer to automate DNA computations
- Dr. Youngjun Song and team utilized 3D printing to develop a microfluidic device that can conduct Boolean logic
- The chip and software configuration work collaboratively to create a microfluidic processing unit (MPU)
The Microfluidic Chip
The field of DNA computing has evolved leaps and bounds since it was first proposed nearly 30 years ago. However, the majority of DNA computing procedures are still performed manually, with reactants being added step-by-step to the reaction by hand. Presently, scientists at Incheon National University (INU), Korea have found a way to automate DNA calculations by developing a unique chip that can be controlled by a personal computer.
The term DNA instantly calls to mind the double-stranded helix that contains all our genetic information. However, the individual units of its two strands are pairs of molecules bonded with each other in a selective, complementary fashion. It turns out one can take advantage of this pairing property to perform complex mathematical calculations, which forms the basis of DNA computing.
Since DNA has only two strands, performing even simple calculations necessitates several chemical reactions using separate sets of DNA. In the present research, the DNA for each reaction is added manually, one by one, into a single reaction tube, which makes the process very cumbersome. Microfluidic chips, which are made up of narrow channels etched onto material like plastic, provide a technique to automate the process. Nonetheless, despite its promise, the application of microfluidic devices for DNA computing remains unexplored.
Generating double-stranded DNA
“Our hope is that DNA-based CPUs will replace electronic CPUs in the future because they consume less power, which will help with global warming. DNA-based CPUs also provide a platform for complex calculations like deep learning solutions and mathematical modeling,” says Dr. Youngjun Song from INU, who led the study.
Dr. Song and colleagues employed 3D printing to create their microfluidic device, which can perform Boolean logic, one of the fundamental logics of computer programming. Boolean logic is a type of true-or-false logic that compares inputs and returns a result of “true” or “false” based on the operation, or “logic gate,” utilized. The logic gate in this experiment consisted of a single-stranded DNA template. Different single-stranded DNAs were then employed as inputs. If a portion of an input DNA had a complementary Watson-Crick sequence to the template DNA, it paired to generate double-stranded DNA. The result was classified as true or false based on the size of the final DNA.
A motor-operated valve system that can be operated using a PC or smartphone makes the designed chip extraordinary. The chip and software configuration work together to generate a microfluidic processing unit (MPU). The valve system enabled the MPU to undertake a series of reactions in order to execute a combination of logic operations in a timely and convenient manner.