Bio computing is the construction and use of computers that functions like living things or having biological components such as DNA. Bio computing is also used in bioinformatics to assist the biological research. Bio computing uses Bio computers which uses biologically derived molecules such as Proteins and DNA. These are used for computational calculations including data storage, data retrieve, data processing etc.
The concept of bio computing was first suggested by Tom Knight of MIT Artificial Intelligence Laboratory. He suggested the use of proteins as binary signals for logical operations. At a particular concentration of a bio material, it indicates logic 1 and below that particular concentration, it indicates logic 0.Using this concept, bio computer can perform logical operations. A particular logical output appears when a specific initial condition is used as input.
The development of biotechnology has been made possible by the development of Nano biotechnology. Nanobiotechnology is based on the use of nano scale materials having a diameter of 1 to 100 nano meters .Nano biotechnology is mainly focusing on the design and engineering of proteins that can be assembled into functional structures. The implementation of nano biotechnology helped scientists to engineer biomolecules that behave like the computational functionality of a computer.
The research of bio computers is growing fast and it uses the nano sized bio materials to create various types of computational devices. These have potential applications in the field of science especially in medical research, biotechnology and bioinformatics. If bio computer technology becomes a success, it will be the cheapest and energy efficient one in future.
Concept behind Bio computers
Bio computers use biologically active materials to perform functions like a computer. The bio computer system consists of biological pathways that engineered like the input devices of the computer. The resulting biological pathways behave like the output devices. The output can be interpreted as a form of computational analysis. Researches are going on to develop three important categories of bio computers.
1. Bio chemical computer
Biochemical computer uses the feedback loop of the chemical reactions to get the computational functionality. The biofeedback mechanism is responsible for accelerating or inhibiting the biochemical reactions. These positive and negative feedback systems regulate the biological functions by producing chemical outputs. The feedback mechanisms involve a number of molecules including enzymes that alter the chemical reactivity of the molecules. It is possible to engineer a chemical pathway comprising a set of molecules that combine to form a product in one condition and another product in a different condition. The product then act as a signal that can be interpreted as a computational output by taking the starting biomolecules as the input signal.
2. Bio mechanical Computer
Biomechanical computer is almost similar to bio chemical computer and uses the same mechanism to give an output for computational analysis using specific conditions as input. The major difference between the biochemical and bio mechanical computer is that the biochemical computer uses a chemical substance as output signal while the bio mechanical computer uses the mechanical shape of the output material for computational analysis. Bio mechanical computer rely on the physical configuration of certain biomolecules in special chemical environment. The three dimensional structure of the output material is detected and interpreted by the bio mechanical computer.
3. Bio electronic computer
These can be constructed for electronic computing. In bio electronic computer also the specific output based on the initial input conditions is used for computation. But the output is measured in the form of electrical conductivity. The bio electronic computer uses specific biomolecules having specific electrical conductivity based on initial input conditions.
Biomolecules in Bio computing
Proteins and DNA molecules are primarily used in bio computing. To create the bio computing system, nano biotechnology is used. The proteins are composed of Amino acids which form chemical basis of particular proteins. These “Magic 20” determines the structure and functional peculiarity of the proteins. Similarly the nucleotide sequence of DNA determines the functional nature of DNA. The information encoded in the nucleotide sequences of the DNA are translated into the language of proteins (arrangement of amino acids) during protein synthesis. The polypeptides formed by joining the aminoacids then become the functional protein. The bio computing uses the engineered DNA capable of encoding information for a specific protein. Synthetic DNA can be produced to function as a bio computer. Thus by using the nano biotechnology, it is possible to create synthetic proteins and DNA to function as a bio computer. One of the well known examples is the production of “Computational Genes”.
Human Bio computer
It is the anatomical structure such as brain, heart, hormone system etc that are functioning in a well defined manner similar to a computer. The term Human bio computer was coined by John.C.Lilly and he compared the organ systems of the body similar to the hardware of the computer and brain signals as software.
Different types of simple bio computers have been designed but their ability of computational analysis is still premature compared to a computer. But there is great scope in future to use biological materials for computational analysis since these are rich in nature and the cheapest source of molecules.
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