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Researchers from the Institute of General Physics of the Russian Academy of Sciences, the Institute of Bioorganic Chemistry of the Russian 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.
Details of their research project are given in the journal Nature Nanotechnology. It is the first experimental publication by an exclusively Russian team in one of the most cited scientific magazines in many years.
The paper draws 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.
Many scientists believe logical operations inside cells or in artificial biomolecular systems to be a way of controlling biological processes and creating full-fledged micro-and nano-robots, which can, for example, deliver drugs on schedule to those tissues where they are needed.
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. It is far more difficult, however, to do calculations outside cells, where there are no natural structures that could help carry out calculations. The new study focuses specifically on extracellular biocomputing.