Researchers from the Institute of General Physics, the Institute of Bioorganic Chemistry (Russia, Academy of Sciences) and MIPT have made an important step towards creating medical nanorobots. They discovered a way of enabling nano- and microparticles to produce logical calculations using a variety of biochemical reactions.
The scientists draw on the idea of computing using biomolecules. In electronic circuits, for instance, logical connectives use current or voltage (if there is voltage, the result is 1, if there is none, it’s 0). In biochemical systems, the result can a given substance. For example, modern bioengineering techniques allow for making a cell illuminate with different colors or even programming it to die, linking the initiation of apoptosis to the result of binary operations.
Scientists say logical operations inside cells to be a way of controlling biological processes and creating nano-robots, which can deliver drugs on schedule. Calculations using biomolecules inside cells, a.k.a. biocomputing, are a very promising and rapidly developing branch of science, according to the leading author of the study, Maxim Nikitin, a 2010 graduate of MIPT’s Department of Biological and Medical Physics. Biocomputing uses natural cellular mechanisms.
The study paves the way for a number of biomedical technologies and differs significantly from previous works in biocomputing binary operations in DNA, RNA and proteins for over a decade now, but Maxim Nikitin and his colleagues were the first to propose and experimentally confirm a method to transform almost any type of nanoparticle or microparticle into autonomous biocomputing structures that are capable of implementing a functionally complete set of Boolean logic gates (YES, NOT, AND and OR) and binding to a target (such as a cell) as result of a computation.
The prefix “nano” in this case is not a fad or a mere formality. A decrease in particle size sometimes leads to drastic changes in the physical and chemical properties of a substance. The smaller the size, the greater the reactivity; very small semiconductor particles, for example, may produce fluorescent light. The new research project used nanoparticles (i.e. particles of 100 nm) and microparticles (3000 nm or 3 micrometers).
The new work was published on the website of the journal Nature Nanotechnology.