RNA, ribonucleic acid, is used in our cells to transport information coded in the DNA to the ribosome and then to manufacture protein. Some speculates that RNA pre-dates the DNA in the evolution process since it is the essential component for proteins production and these are the building blocks of life.
RNA can be seen as a sort of manufacturing plant directing the assembly of proteins and scientists have now found a way to use it as a programmable computer at molecular level to produce at molecular level bio-sensors, drugs and more.
Synthetic biologists researchers at the Wyss Institute at Harvard University have created ribocomputers based on precise assembling of precisely designed synthetic RNA strands. These ribocomputers can make logic decisions like a silicon based computer using the same AND OR NOT operators. However they are not using voltage for processing but chemical compounds. As an example the presence of a toxin in the environment activate a specific RNA strand initiating a “computation” that can end in the production of a specific protein to antagonise the toxin.
RNA needs a hosting organism to operate and researchers have been using bacteria (Escherichia Coli) but ribocomputers should be able to work also in other cells, including our own. Imagine: implanting a ribocomputer that automatically produces a drug when need arise at the cellular level. It would be an amazing form of augmenting our capability to react to noxious substances!
That is still science fiction but this research shows that science is getting closer to science fiction…