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Reprogrammable DNA

Researchers from the California Institute of Technology and Harvard University have shown that it is possible to reprogram a DNA-based computer, Wired reports.

The team, led by Caltech's Erik Winfree, reports in Nature that it developed and validated a set of 355 DNA tiles that they could then reprogram into a range of six-bit algorithms. In particular, the team says it constructed 21 circuits that perform algorithms that copy, sort, elect a leader, and generate random patterns, among other tasks, with an error rate of less than 1 in 3,000. This, they add, suggests "molecular self-assembly could be a reliable algorithmic component within programmable chemical systems."

"This is one of the landmark papers in the field," Kent State University's Thorsten-Lars Schmidt, who was not involved in the research, tells Wired. "There was algorithmic self-assembly before, but not to this degree of complexity."

The Caltech and Harvard team further say that such algorithmic self-assembly should also be possible with other molecules like RNA and proteins, and Wired notes that this nanoscale assembly process could have a range of applications.