Biological computer is a novel computer model that uses nucleic acid molecules as "data" and biological enzymes and biological operations as information processing tools.


In 1983, the United States proposed the concept of biological computers. Since then, various developed countries have begun to develop biological computers. Biologists apply bionics to the field of biological computers, and have produced the view of biochemical molecular architecture of biological computers. Biocomputers are still in a booming stage, and new types of biochips are being actively developed at home and abroad. Although biocomputers have not yet made major disruptive progress, some scholars have even pointed out a series of shortcomings of biocomputers, such as genetic material biocomputers are interfered by external environmental factors, calculation results cannot be detected, and biochemical reactions cannot guarantee the success rate. In addition, it is difficult to run a text editor on a chip dominated by protein molecules. But these do not affect the rapid development of biological computers, a field with huge temptations. With the continuous advancement of human technology, these problems will eventually be solved, and the commercialization of biological computers will come.

Biocomputer is a subject with the most vitality and development potential in the global high-tech field. This kind of computer involves a variety of disciplines, including computer science, brain science, molecular biology, biophysics, and bioengineering. , Electronic Engineering and other related disciplines. Its main raw material is protein molecules produced by bioengineering technology, and uses this as a biochip. The biological computer chip itself also has the function of parallel processing. Its calculation speed is 100,000 times faster than that of today’s latest generation computers. The energy consumption is only one part per billion of that of ordinary computers, and the space for storing information only occupies tens of billions of billions. One. Biological computers have many advantages, mainly in the following aspects:

1. Small size and high efficiency.

The area of ​​a biological computer can accommodate hundreds of millions of circuits, which is hundreds of times higher than that of current electronic computers. At the same time, biological computers no longer have the shape of computers, and can be hidden in desk corners, walls or floors, and at the same time heat generation and electromagnetic interference are greatly reduced.

2. The chip permanence and reliability of biological computers

Biological computers have permanence and high reliability. If the biological repair mechanism can be brought into play, it can repair itself even if the chip fails. (This is an extremely attractive potential advantage of biological computers) Protein molecules can assemble themselves, can generate microcircuits and are active, so biological computers have biological properties. Biological computers are no longer like electronic computers. After the chip is damaged, it cannot be automatically repaired. Biological computers can exert the biological regulation function to automatically repair damaged chips. Therefore, the biological computer is highly reliable and not easily damaged. Even if the chip fails, it can be automatically repaired. Therefore, the biological computer chip has a certain degree of permanence.

3. Storage and parallel processing of biological computers

Biological computers have huge advantages over traditional electronic computers in terms of storage. One gram of DNA can store information equivalent to one trillion CDs, and the storage density is 100 billion to 1,000 billion times that of disk storage. Biological computers also have super-strong parallel processing capabilities. Logical operations can be realized through biochemical reactions in a small area. Tens of billions of DNA molecules form a large number of DNA computers to operate in parallel. Especially biological neural computers have good parallel distributed storage memory and generalized fault tolerance. It shows great potential when dealing with Boltzmann automata models and some non-numerical problems. Truly put away the von Neumann model, and truly realize intelligence.

Biological computers have simple data transmission and communication processes, and their parallel processing capabilities are comparable to supercomputers. The different sequence of DNA molecular bases is used as the computer’s original data, and the corresponding enzymes are matched by biochemical changes. DNA bases perform basic operations and can realize various functions of electronic computers.

The biological computer contains a large number of genetic material tools, which can perform millions of calculations at the same time. The traditional electronic computer checks all possible solutions one by one at the current speed. The biological computer processes all the molecules in each molecule library at the same time, without having to analyze the possible answers in order. An electronic computer is equivalent to a set of keys, one key at a time is used to unlock the lock, and the biological computer uses several million keys to unlock the lock at a time, and its calculation speed will also be 1 million times faster than the existing supercomputer. The number of calculations of biological computers can be as high as per second or higher. Further development and integration of other high and new technologies, biological computers have broad prospects.

4. Heating and signal interference

The components of biological computers are biochemical components composed of organic molecules. They use chemical reactions to work, so they only need very little energy. It can work. Therefore, it will not be like an electronic computer. After working for a period of time, the body will heat up, and there is no signal interference between the circuits of the biological computer.

5. Data error rate

Another important property of DNA strands is the double helix structure. A base and T base, C base and G base form base pairs . Every DNA sequence has a complementary sequence. This complementarity is the unique advantage of biological computers. If the error occurs in a certain double helix sequence of DNA, the modifying enzyme can refer to the complementary sequence to repair the error. The double helix structure is equivalent to a computer hard disk RAID1 array. One hard disk is a mirror image of another hard disk. When the first hard disk is damaged, data can be repaired through the second hard disk. The biological computer itself has the feature of correcting errors, so the error rate of biological computer data is low.


As a new generation computer that is about to be perfected, the advantages of biological computers are very obvious. But it also has its own insurmountable shortcomings. The most important one is the difficulty in extracting information from it. A biological computer has completed all the calculations of human beings so far in 24 hours, but it took 1 week to extract a piece of information from it. This is also the main reason why biological computers are not popular at present.


Biomolecule or supramolecular chip

Based on the traditional computer model, it starts with finding highly efficient and microscopic electronic information carriers and information transfer bodies. At present, a lot of research and development have been done on the structure and function of small molecules, macromolecules, and supramolecular biochips in organisms. "Biochemical circuits" belong to this.

Automata model

Based on automata theory, we are committed to finding new computer models, especially non-numerical computer models for special purposes. Current research focuses on the analogy of basic biological phenomena, such as neural networks, immune networks, and cellular automata. The difference between different automata is mainly the difference in the internal connection of the network. Its basic feature is collective computing, also known as collectivism, which has great potential in non-numerical computing, simulation, and identification.

Bionic algorithm

Based on biological intelligence, with the concept of bionics, we are dedicated to finding new algorithm models. Although similar to the idea of ​​automata, it is based on algorithms and does not pursue Changes in hardware.

Biochemical reaction algorithm

Based on a controllable biochemical reaction or reaction system, it takes advantage of the high copy number of similar molecules in a small volume, and pursues a high degree of parallelization of calculations. Provide computational efficiency. DNA computers fall into this category.

Cell Computer

Using system genetics principles, synthetic biotechnology, artificial design and synthesis of genes, gene chains, signal transduction networks, etc., system bioengineering of cells (System bio-engineering) transformation and reprogramming can do complex calculations and information processing. Cellular computers are also called wet computers. The current computers are dry computers.

In 1994, the Chinese Academy of Sciences Zeng Bangzhe published the integrated concepts of bionics and genetic engineering, such as genome blueprint design and biomachine assembly of system bioengineering, biomolecular computers and cell bionics engineering. Chinese Academy of Sciences Zeng Bangzhe (Zeng Jie) proposed in 1999 to regard genetic information system as genomic intelligence (genomic intelligence), artificially compiling genetic programs, redesigning the complex interaction network of biomolecules in cells, and turning cells into artificial biosystems. Announced the conceptual diagram of the artificially designed intracellular molecular circuit system to distinguish it from "artificial life", thus proposing the design and assembly research of cell molecular machines in computer bionics and genetic engineering. In 2002, he proposed molecular modules, organelles, Gene group designs cells and designs biological computer models of cell signal communication, thereby expanding the concept of multi-cell computer and hierarchy. The research and development of biocomputers has become an important part of modern synthetic biology.

Development process

The early conception of biological computing began in 1959, when Nobel Prize winner Feynman proposed to use molecular scale to develop computers;

1970s Since then, it has been discovered that deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) is in different states, which can produce informational and non-informative changes. Scientists have discovered that biological components can realize 0 and 1 in logic circuits, turning on or off of transistors, high or low voltage, presence or absence of pulse signals, and so on. The biochip made after special cultivation can be used as a new type of high-speed computer integrated circuit.

In 1994, Turing Award winner Adleman proposed a DNA computing model based on the biochemical reaction mechanism;

The breakthrough work in biocomputers was the parallel type proposed by Peking University in 2007 The DNA computing model solves all 48 3-colorings of a 3-color graph with 61 vertices. The algorithm complexity is, and this number of searches requires 13 It can only be completed in 217 years, and the result seems to herald the coming of the age of biological computers.

The main raw material is protein molecules produced by bioengineering technology, which are used as biochips. Biochips are much smaller than the electronic components on silicon chips, and the biochips themselves have a natural and unique three-dimensional structure, and their density is five orders of magnitude higher than that of planar silicon integrated circuits. Letting trillions of DNA molecules undergo chemical reactions under the action of certain enzymes can make biological computers run billions of times at the same time. The biological computer chip itself also has the function of parallel processing, and its operation speed is faster than that of the latest generation of computers. Once a biochip fails, it can repair itself, so it has the ability to self-heal. Biocomputers are biologically active and can be organically integrated with human tissues, especially with the brain and nervous system. In this way, the biological computer can directly accept the comprehensive command of the brain, become an auxiliary device or expansion part of the human brain, and can absorb nutrients and supplement energy by the human cells, so it does not need external energy. It will become the ideal partner that can be implanted in the human body and help humans learn, think, create, and invent. In addition, because the possibility of collisions between flowing electrons in the biochip is extremely small, and there is almost no resistance, the energy consumption of the biocomputer is extremely small.

In March 2021, a research team from the University of Pompeii Fabra in Spain designed a "biological computer" that can print cells on a piece of paper.

Application of Bionics

Mankind has a subject called bionics, which is to serve the human society better by studying and imitating the biological characteristics of the natural world. A typical example is the creation of a helicopter by studying the flight of dragonflies; the realization of "turning a blind eye" to the surface of the frog's eyes and actually "observing the details" has developed an electronic frog eye; the study of fly flight has imitated a new type of navigation Instrument-vibrating gyroscope, it can automatically stop the dangerous "somersault" flight of aircraft and rockets. When the aircraft tilts strongly, it can automatically balance, so that the aircraft can be foolproof in the most complicated sharp turns; it has no vision for bats. Research on the characteristics of directional flight by emitting ultrasonic waves has produced radars, ultrasonic directional instruments, etc.; research on "chameleons" has resulted in the application of stealth science and protective colors...

Bionics can also be applied to In the computer field.

By studying biological tissues, scientists have found that the tissues are composed of countless cells. Cells are composed of water, salt, protein, nucleic acid and other organic substances. The protein molecules in some organic substances are like switches. "On" and "Off" functions. Therefore, humans can use genetic engineering technology to imitate this protein molecule and use it as a component to make a computer. Scientists call this kind of computer a biological computer.

Biological computers are mainly computers built with biological electronic components. It utilizes the switching properties of proteins and uses protein molecules as components to make biochips. Its performance is determined by the switching speed of the current on and off between components. A computer chip made of protein has a storage point only the size of one molecule, so its storage capacity can reach one billion times that of an ordinary computer. An integrated circuit made of protein is only equivalent to one hundred thousandth of a silicon integrated circuit. And it runs faster, only 1×10^(-11) seconds, which greatly exceeds the thinking speed of the human brain.

Key factors

Just as the Human Genome Project has given us, the data storage and computing power of DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) may far exceed the silicon chips currently used in computers. At present, computer scientists are working on the development of genetic supercomputers to construct a new century of information technology based on DNA. DNA, also known as deoxyribonucleic acid, makes the cell nucleus carry the genetic material for biological growth instructions. DNA has incredible data storage capabilities and is likely to be stronger than silicon wafers. Generally speaking, the storage function of 1 milligram of DNA is approximately equivalent to 10,000 optical discs. What is even more incredible is that DNA also has the ability to process trillions of calculation instructions at the same time. The researchers pointed out that the genetic molecules DNA and RNA that encode instructions for life activities can store more data than conventional memory chips. The test tube biological computer contains a large number of genetic material fragments, and each fragment is a micro-computing tool. Therefore, biological computers can perform thousands or even millions of calculations at the same time. For the future use of biological computers, researchers have various ideas. One of them is to let it replace humans in clinical trials of new drugs. It can simulate various changes in the human body through calculations. As long as the description of the ingredients of the drug is input into the biological computer, the response result will be obtained.

Research direction

Biological computer is a great project that mankind expects to be completed in the 21st century. It is the youngest branch in the computer world. The current research directions are roughly two: one is the development of molecular computers, that is, the manufacture of organic molecular components to replace the current semiconductor logic components and storage components; the other is the in-depth study of the structure of the human brain and the laws of thinking, and the reimagining of biological computers Structure.

New products

According to the National Geographic magazine, the newly developed biocomputer allows scientists to "program" molecules and execute "commands" by living cells.

Christina Smolke of the California Institute of Technology is one of the co-authors of the study. He pointed out that biological computers like this one day Humans directly control biological computing systems. The research will be published in the journal "Science" on October 17, 2008. Biocomputers will eventually have intelligence to generate biofuels from cells. For example, they can effectively control "smart drugs" under certain special conditions. Smerke said, "If a certain disease is detected, a smart drug can sample from a cellular environment and form a self-defense sequence structure."

This new type of biological computer includes The engineered RNA fragments in yeast cells. RNA is a biological molecule similar to DNA. It can encode genetic information, such as how to make diverse proteins. From the perspective of computational engineering, the "input" of a biological computer is the molecules floating in the cell; the "output" is the change of protein products. For example, the RNA computer is likely to bind two different molecules. If the two different molecules are attached together, it will cause the appearance of the biological computer to change. When the changed shape of the biological computer binds DNA, it will directly affect gene expression and slow down protein production.

These proteins will affect cells in different ways. For example, if these cells are cancer cells, the proteins will kill the cancer cells. The research team designed the different parts of the RNA computer to be modular, so these components can be mixed and matched.

Smalk said, "Depending on our different combinations, different effects will be achieved." Nature tends to form complex molecular structures, and these complex molecules can achieve extraordinary independent functions. . It is difficult to establish some interchangeable components to perform diversified computing functions, but this kind of biological computer has high efficiency and will gradually mature in future research.

Many scientists believe that biological computers are unlikely to surpass or match today's electronic computers. Ron Weiss, an electronic engineer and molecular biologist at Princeton University in the United States, said, "They can't run Microsoft Windows or Wii games as fast as our daily computers." What makes biological computers different is that Can potentially repair or directly affect cell processes.

Weiss said that it basically uses a "cell language", and this latest research will expand the application of biological computers. The previous RNA computer was not very complicated.

Ehud Shapiro, a computer scientist and biocomputer scientist at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel, did not participate in Smirk’s research. , The research team he led successfully used DNA to build a biological computer that can work in a test tube and perform some simple mathematical operations.

But Shapiro’s biological computer is different from the latest RNA computer. His test-tube molecular computer is easily affected and interfered by the external environment. Shapiro said, “Smolk’s latest research shows that a new type of biological computer can realize the operation of molecules in cells.” He hopes that in the future RNA computers can replace complex devices made from proteins, which are the most natural thing we know. Effective devices, we know how to make RNA molecules perform simple tasks, but we don’t know how they drive proteins. This will be a goal of important research in the future.

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