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Enzyme Computer Could Live Inside You 155

dylanduck writes "New Scientist reports the creation of an enzyme-based computer that performs AND and XOR calculations, and combinations of the two, based on the presence or absence of specific chemicals. If they can be engineered inside living cells, they could measure a patient's metabolism and deliver just the right amount of drug at just the right spot, the researchers reckon. I'm worried about the viruses." Ba-dump *chink*.
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Enzyme Computer Could Live Inside You

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  • Ha! (Score:5, Funny)

    by qw(name) ( 718245 ) on Friday February 24, 2006 @10:44AM (#14793187) Journal

    I'm worried about the viruses." Ba-dump *chink*.
    OMG, that was funny. It gives new meanign to "Safe Hex" from years gone by.
    • Re:Ha! (Score:1, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      I wouldn't be worried about the viruses... The time invested in developing a virus will be more than a few days hacking code in a computer. It will require a lab, thousands of dollars of reagents, an education, and more than likely a multidisciplinary team.

      As opposed to a geeky 14 year old who is too scared to talk to girls.
    • Many forms of virus do in fact reproduce themselves by hijacking enzymatic processes in living cells. The idea of a virus subverting one of these computing systems would be a very real concern. The terminology appears to have come full circle.
    • Diabetes checks would be radically simplified, imagine an age without blood sugar sticks. For sexually transmitted diseases, perhaps a computer could be created to tell you if you had one of the (n) most common ones the morning after. Patients with hypertension would always have blood pressure monitors, and those with heart disease would know what theier status was at the check of a computer.

      If it's not used for tracking or behavior-monitoring purposes, I say it could be a very handy tool for patient and
  • Core Dump takes on new meaning..
  • by Anonymous Coward
    enzyme computer live inside you!

    Oh wait...
  • by nmccart ( 952969 ) on Friday February 24, 2006 @10:48AM (#14793234) Homepage
    will it run Linux?
  • I dunno (Score:2, Insightful)

    by dtsazza ( 956120 )
    OK, so they've got a computer that works on enzymes, which is pretty clever. And from TFA:

    "This is basically a computer that could be integrated with the human body," Willner told New Scientist. "We feel you could implant an enzyme computer into the body and use it to calculate an entire metabolic pathway."

    But can't you do that already with standard computers (we can make them pretty small these days, so I'm told)?

    My guess is that they instinctively think "Ooh, it's made of enzymes, instead of all that n

    • Re:I dunno (Score:3, Insightful)

      by drinkypoo ( 153816 )

      And if they're suggesting that these wouldn't be self-enclosed units and would actually interact with actual human enzymes that may come and go as they please...

      Well, otherwise, what good are they? But you're quite right that this is very far off. I can imagine the technology being used to putter around with animals for years before it's a good idea to start screwing around with humans. The fact is that we just don't understand all that much about the basic functioning of some of these systems - or ba

    • I don't see this having any real impact for a long while yet.

      How about this, imagine that you have a metabolic disorder such as diabetes, hypoglycemia, hyperthyroidism, etc...

      With a bit of engineering you could induce color changes in a few skin cells in "minute time" where specfic darkening would occur in a regular grid, perhaps on the inside of your wrist, gauging your blood chemistry. The dots would need to be applied like tatoos, and each dot would need a specific mix, and the dots would need to be re-

  • by maxwell demon ( 590494 ) on Friday February 24, 2006 @10:48AM (#14793244) Journal
    ... that Microsoft might enter this business. Would give a whole new meaning to Blue Screen Of Death ...
  • by LM741N ( 258038 ) on Friday February 24, 2006 @10:48AM (#14793246)
    I think it is called the brain. Although it might work a little bit differently that what they are doing.
  • Old News... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Ancil ( 622971 ) on Friday February 24, 2006 @10:49AM (#14793251)
    If they can be engineered inside living cells, they could measure a patient's metabolism and deliver just the right amount of drug at just the right spot, the researchers reckon.
    I already have one of these. It helps me to live, so I named it a "liver".
    • yes but as you know, not everyone's liver works properly, if at all, thus, the good news of finding something that can do it in its place.
    • That's the crazy thing about people, we all don't work the same, and we all don't work properly. I mean call me crazy but maybe, just maybe, some people need certain hormone, enzyme, and drug levels artificially maintained because their bodies have a deficiency of some sort that does not allow their bodies to properly regulate themselves.
      • This is slashdot. You're supposed to say "Those whose livers don't function right are weak and thus deserve to die." Then you yell and ask mommy for a glass of water.
    • >I already have one of these. It helps me to live, so I named it a "liver".

      I have one of these too and live in a network. I often interface and exchange data with the one called "wife." Its like sneakernet, but you use something other than your feet.
      • So, does that make you or your wife the server? I do hope she's a thin client.

        I hope you both take adequate precautions before opening one of your ports.

        Does your network require a username and password- I bet your username was 'marry_m3' and the password 'i_d0'

        If you ever have trouble logging on, chocolate and flower patches tend to help ease network restrictions.

        Also, if you're feeling adventurous, you may seek to interface with an alternative port, but you may be met with resistance.
    • I also have one of these and it's called an immune system.

      "If we can just create a complex system in the human body that monitors status and catalyzes restorative chemical responses we might really have something!"

      "Uhm...sir? I asked the French, and they said they've already got one."

      "WHAT? What did they say?"

      "That they...that they already have one, sir."

      "Well ask them if we can see it?"

      "I did, sir."

      "What did they say?"

      "They laughed at me and then they threw vegetables and chickens at me.

    • I already have one of these. It helps me to live, so I named it a "liver".

      Really? You still have one those old things?
      I thought that's what a good college education was meant to fix.
  • Blood Music [] by Greg Bear?

    In it someone's "enzyme computers" got too smart.
  • I'm not worried about viruses. I'm worried about hackers or these in the wrong hands. >.>
    • Simple solution: don't make them programmable, and don't network them. No communication + no writing = no virus risk.
    • I can't imagine any possible reason to having external interfacing on these computers, so with any sense they'd be autonomous once built and released.

      In theory someone could still change their program physically... but if someone you don't trust is up to their elbows in your kidneys, you've got more pressing concerns! :)
    • Yeah, I keep thinking about Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex and the case known as the "Laughing Man."
  • I had a brain storm about an idea for a sci-fi short story in which a team of college grads figure out a way to turn their dna into computers. This would enable them to form huds in their mind and use their brains for neural computers instead of say... Cybernetic implants...

    Then one student learns how to break the code and then start to modify all his DNA and becomes a superbeast consuming all life and then the good guy nerd transforms into some physic dragon ball-esque character (who can also modify his dn
    • Instead of giving away your story idea on slashdot, you should write it. ;-)
      (I'm serious.) I know we all need a little push once in a while, but once you get started it'll roll..
    • I had a brain storm about an idea for a sci-fi short story in which a team of college grads figure out a way to turn their dna into computers. This would enable them to form huds in their mind and use their brains for neural computers instead of say... Cybernetic implants...

      Then one student learns how to break the code and then start to modify all his DNA and becomes a superbeast consuming all life and then the good guy nerd transforms into some physic dragon ball-esque character (who can also modify his dn
  • Beer (Score:5, Funny)

    by i_am_the_r00t ( 762212 ) on Friday February 24, 2006 @10:59AM (#14793405)
    If Day=Friday AND time="5:30:00" then Deliver_Beer() Function Deliver_Beer() If Bank_Balance > $300.00 then Beer="Sam Adams Boston Lager" Else Beer = "Stroh's" Endif end Function
    • If Day=Friday AND time="5:30:00" then Deliver_Beer() Function Deliver_Beer() If Bank_Balance > $300.00 then Beer="Sam Adams Boston Lager" Else Beer = "Stroh's" Endif end Function

      You have made a classic blunder. You don't want to check for exact equality with a continuous variable.

      If Day=Friday AND ( abs (time - BEER_O_CLOCK) < epsilon) ) ...

      This way, you don't risk missing beer time just because the function ran a fraction of a second too late. Actually, it'd probably be even better to set a flag.


  • Forget viruses... I'm more concerned with software bugs. You think the Pentium Pro floating point errors were bad? Try developing a nervous twitch or not being able to walk because of some software engineer's typo...
  • "Hello world" program requires ZERO lines of code. Textbooks all one chapter shorter.
  • ... a cup of stain-fighting detergent [], and your Maytag is a supercomputer.

    Don't tell Microsoft, or pretty soon we'll all be crashing the spin cycle.

  • by WidescreenFreak ( 830043 ) on Friday February 24, 2006 @11:08AM (#14793503) Homepage Journal
    This could lead to some great human programming! Think about it!

    New GEEK YOGURT with Enzymatic-Action (TM)! Comes in new exciting arrangements!

    Now you can become a Perl expert with our Perl Programming yogurt! Comes in the convenient beer flavor!

    Our new BFG2000 yogurt with Hyper-Enzymatic-Action (TM) will help you to maintain focus and alertness during those long, overnight CS or BF2 sessions! Comes in Jolt and Penguin Mint flavors!

    Our C++ yogurt doesn't come in one package but instead comes in several small packages that work together!

    Our Increase Your Attractiveness To Girls yogurt is still in development, but we're working on it. It's not as easy as we thought.

    We've given up on our .NET yogurt because it's too difficult to swallow.

    Increase your memory with our RAM super-enzymatic yogurt! Just remember that you'll need to eat a good helping of this every year or so as life's base requirements keep increasing.

    Finally, our Microsoft yogurt with BSOD enzymes with help you to learn to do new and amazing things that you've been able to do for a long time with competitors' yogurts, but now you won't have the extra expense of buying theirs! (Why, no, that's not anti-competitive. Why do you ask?)

    Hey, it's Friday. Gotta have some fun. :)
  • Kurzweil's vision (Score:3, Interesting)

    by CRCulver ( 715279 ) <> on Friday February 24, 2006 @11:11AM (#14793549) Homepage
    Raymond Wurzveil [] has been writing for years now on the coming merger of man and machine (as in his highly recommended book The Age of Spiritual Machines [] ). The general idea is that eventually our minds will be transferrable to silicon and external means of storage, but this idea of humans being augmented with biological computing is an interesting short-term solution. I wonder if he'll make some comment about it.
  • Someone better tell Steve [] that wearable computers are so passé.
  • The computer will be called CryptNet [] and will be used to calculate The Seed []
    • HeHe. Kind of funny how the young 'uns quote Stephenson instead of his predecessors. Herbert's Lazarus Effect comes to mind immediately, but I'm pretty sure he wasn't the first to think along these lines.
  • I'd say Willner's thinking small (if you don't know who Willner is, then RTFA). Why make cures for sick people, when there are rich people out there who want to get fixed, too? I mean, if you can make a computer that would make you thin, or muscular, or change your hair colour permanently, or stop hair production in your legs... then go for it and make a ton of money. Heck I'd pay for something so that I didn't have to wax my back...

    Worrisome, though, is the computer that you accidentally ingest that h
    • What they need is a protection system so that if the computer doesn't get regular external "handshakes", it'll shut itself down. (This is not for your safety, understand. This is so that the VIAA [Viagra Implant Association of America] can get its large licence fee.)
    • Maybe I'm missing some fundamental biology, but why stop there? If these computers are made out of enzymes, and a cell will produce enzymes according to DNA, would there not be a (very complex) DNA sequence that will instruct a cell to produce this computer?

      On another note, once we are able to measure biological signs, select a medicine, and distribute that medicine all from within a living part of the human body, what's to stop us from using that to artificially create happiness and sadness, and use these
  • a beowulf cluster of these!
  • They are assaying some enzymes in vitro and are speaking of a "biological computer"? This is not really fascinating for a biology undergraduate like me.

    "Protein engineering" is much more interesting! Customly made proteins which perform specific operations in the body of an organism.
  • in soviet russia... you assimilate the computer!

    Now, with that out of the way: i'm wondering whether this can be turned to practical application in the near future with cancer treatments. How far away is this?

    And what happens if the markers used go awry? How easy would it be to end up with the wrong dose in the wrong place? I know if this were being used on me, i'd only agree to be an 'early adopter' in one of two circumstances- illness with a high risk of fatality, in which case the risks of treatment woul
  • If you overclock this computer, there's no reflashing the BIOS to recover.... Besides, LN2 isn't exactly good to be running though your cardiovascular system.
  • Torrent needed for Ebola vaccine! Please hurry!
    • Do you really want me to seed for you, though?

      Wow... some once-tech terms can get really dirty when mixed with real people. Especially considering where your options to connect the monitor are.

  • Just imagine if the average script kiddie could harness this technology with easily accessible tools to basically play god. Maybe that sounds cool to some people, but it sounds more like the potential death of mankind to me.

    I mean, if you thought Spanish Fly and Roofies were a big deal on college campuses, just wait till you have people tailoring these substances to programmatically alter a woman's body chemistry in a way which makes the average Slashdot geek irresistable to all of the women on the planet.
  • Did anyone else read this and think, "I could be a Cylon?" ...
  • If i make a body part of mine run DeCSS and the Motion Picture Assho^H^Hociation of America® hears about it, will DMCA allow them to amputate it?

  • I was looking into doing research into these and DNA computer systems when I first started looking into going to grad school a few years back. Essentially, things are still (after 5 years) only at the very basic levels. Work in vitro (outside the body, in a tube) isn't at the 'fully functional' level yet and until you can make a progammable style 'computer' that works in a's simply not ready to be put into a person where one error in genetic code could result in life threatening consequences.


  • ***Runtime Error 200 - Division by Zero***
  • hitchhiker's guide
  • This is potentially very cool.

    The complexity of biochemical pathways has to do with differential concentrations of substrates and products. These enzyme logic systems sound like they have the potential to "light up" cascades of cellular "output". Very cool tools, from a research perspective.

    Perhaps this technology could be used to examine some of these pathways in more detail: Cellular metabolism - gluconeogenesis [], citric acid cycle [], stuff going on in mitochondria and chloroplasts, diabetes [], etc.


  • where'll they put the fan? Wait, I don't want to know.
  • The team built their computer using two enzymes - glucose dehydrogenase (GDH) and horseradish peroxidase (HRP) They built it using horseradish? O_o
  • enzyme activity isn't completely binary.
  • This certainly gives Windows Personal Edition a whole new meaning.

    How many new users will attempt to install DOS programs on their new biological operating system. After all, the programs are supported by Windows ME.

    I want to see the first enzyme brain logger... now you can't even think about your password without being vulnerable.

    Spyware Bio Edition: It not only knows what websites you've been too, it knows what you've eaten for dinner.

    Sales line: "Not only can it balance your checkbook, it can also brush
  • Much like gates in computers, enzymes can have certain thresholds where they activate. However, unlike computers, enzymes can be made to react sooner under different conditions, e.g. heat, cofactors, coenzymes.

    Suppose a drug is implemented and given an enzymatic computer to trigger when it should be released. How do we know this will work across all of human physiology given the aforementioned factors that can alter the threshold of execution?

    I'm skeptical that about this idea, but curious about how it co
  • Choo-choo BLAM!
  • Obligatory (Score:1, Redundant)

    by AeroIllini ( 726211 )
    In Soviet Russia, computer .... um .....

    I've got nothing.
  • Check out the world of synthetic biology []

    From the FAQ:

    Synthetic biology studies how to build artificial biological systems for engineering applications, using many of the same tools and experimental techniques. But the work is fundamentally an engineering application of biological science, rather than an attempt to do more science. The focus is often on ways of taking parts of natural biological systems, characterizing and simplifying them, and using them as a component of a highly unnatural, engineered

  • Apologies, pished, but after someone spotted that there was more RNA interacting in the body than DNA it was messenger for; why aren't people noting that we already run bio-computation devices.

    Forget the why, we're already lousy at that bit. Why not? If there's a gain for little loss, nature tends to grasp and experiment along those courses. An RNA computer that computes and records in next-gen DNA is an ultimatley sensible thing for Nature to do. Not that hard either.

    Never mind the gigantic neural hash loo
  • Missing the point (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Tannor ( 957013 )
    I think most people criticizing this article are completely missing the point. The computer based on enzymes is not being built to compete with your desktop. It doesn't matter if its basis is unstable and slow. Bsw149 attempted to make this point but was mostly ignored.

    -Imagine your cells in a certain organ system alerting you that the concentration of a needed medicine has fallen too low.
    -Someone with Diabetes could get a read out of sugar concentrations without taking a blood sample.

    From the art
  • In aluminum foil companies - it's not just about the hats anymore!

Math is like love -- a simple idea but it can get complicated. -- R. Drabek