Response to Discover Interview, Erik Winfree. Erick Winfree, written
Piedra pulida yahoo dating Stephen Cass. At the end you will find my commentaries. The humblest amoeba performs feats of molecular manipulation that are the envy of any human engineer. Assembling complex biological structures quickly and with atomic precision, the amoeba is living proof of the power of nanotechnology to transmute inert matter into wondrous forms.
Erik Winfree, a professor of computer science and bioengineering at Caltech, is determined to harness all that evolution-honed machinery. He is seeking ways to exploit the methods of cellular biology to create a new type of molecular-scale engineering. Although still in its early days, this line of research could lead to revolutionary ways of treating illness or creating complicated machines by growing them rather than assembling them from parts.
Winfree spoke to DISCOVER senior editor Stephen Cass about his work, its implications for understanding the origin of life, and where this kind of research could lead in the far future. You work in biomolecular computing. What exactly is that? It is different things to different people. For me, it means understanding that chemical systems can perform information processing and be designed to carry out various tasks.
One way I look at it is by analogy: We can design computers to perform all sorts of information tasks, and they are particularly useful when you can hook up those computers to control electromechanical systems. For instance, you can get inputs from a video camera. You can send outputs to a motor. The goal for
Piedra pulida yahoo dating computing is to develop similar controls for chemical and Piedra pulida yahoo dating systems. Ventajas de la tecnologia yahoo dating
How did you get involved in this rather exotic field of research? I got interested in the connection between biology and computation before high school, in the early s. These things got merged in my mind. And I was interested in biological complications of all forms, particularly neural complications: How do brains work? At the same time I was developing a love for algorithms. I did mathematics and theoretical computer sciences as an undergraduate at the University
Piedra pulida yahoo dating Chicago.
I went to Caltech as a graduate student, interested in neural networks for robotics. It was a whole new way of thinking about the connection between molecular systems and computation. How did his thinking influence you? He loved showing things to us kids. I developed my habit of never really just believing anything because he would always try to catch us out and make us think for ourselves.
A lot of his friends that I met as a kid eventually became fellows themselves, so I grew
Piedra pulida yahoo dating thinking that their original way of thinking and being was normal. Some of that has happened by accident, and some of it not. I worked for Stephen Wolfram [an independent mathematician who created the influential Mathematica software package] for a year after meeting him at a MacArthur conference with my dad.
But later, my Ph. Then other people who I bumped into became fellows. I spent some
Piedra pulida yahoo dating at Princeton University and met Michael Elowitz, who taught me about microscopy; he became a fellow in Does that sense of freewheeling community reflect the way you run your lab at Caltech? Actually, his phrase was that he gave me enough rope to hang myself. I think back to the ancient Greek philosophers and how they would meet and have a discussion where everyone brought their own story and process to the table.
They will take not a week but a month or a year or two years before they really figure out what they are interested in. Real biological systems use proteins to handle most jobs, but in your lab you focus on using DNA. Proteins are much more complicated than DNA.
DNA is more predictable, yet it can carry out an enormous range of functions. If you look at the history of life on this planet, there was probably a time before proteins evolved.
Back then RNA was both an information storage system and an active element, performing
Piedra pulida yahoo dating majority of the functions within the cell. OK, so what tasks can you accomplish with engineered DNA? We see different kinds of molecular systems as models of computation.
A model of
Piedra pulida yahoo dating, to a computer scientist, is a set of primitive operations and ways of putting those primitives together to get system-level behavior. Main · Videos; Kaci gamodzaxebit...
You can wire them together into circuits to do complicated functions. One of my main interests is in looking at what models of computation are appropriate for thinking about molecular systems.
In the last four years we have gotten interested in chemical reaction networks, where you have a set of reactions: Traditionally, chemical reactions have been used as a descriptive language for explaining things that we see in nature. Instead, we are treating them as elements of a programming language, a way of expressing behaviors that we are trying to obtain. So growing something out of DNA can be thought of as modifying a data structure.
We also think about how to take a molecule and control it so it folds up into a very specific structure. Paul Rothemund developed that. All of these things have been
Piedra pulida yahoo dating in a primitive form with DNA systems. That sounds fascinating from a theoretical perspective, but what are the practical implications of being
Piedra pulida yahoo dating to control molecules that way?
There is a lot of excitement about intelligent therapeutics, where chemistry interfaces with biological systems to cure disease; a view based on computer science could play a role.
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For that kind of work, we need to distinguish among sensors, actuators, and information-processing units. At the macroscopic scale, we are familiar with the idea that sensors and actuators have to deal with the physical world, but the information-processing unit is isolated from the physical world.
But the hope is
Piedra pulida yahoo dating one day we will be able to build a DNA processing unit that can connect to those sensors and actuators and make decisions about what cells to target or what chemicals to produce. This is fairly speculative. There is a whole set of chemistries for attaching things like proteins, carbon nanotubes, or quantum dots [5- to nanometer metal dots with interesting optical properties] to DNA in specific locations.
That suggests that if you can build a scaffold out of DNA, you could then chemically process it to get something useful. For example, an arrangement of carbon nanotubes bound to DNA could be turned into an electrically conductive circuit. The tiles are designed so that they have binding rules for how they stick to each other.
That is basically a programmable crystal growth process. You could put in a feed crystal containing your program [placing it into a stew of DNA tiles and other raw materials]. The feed crystal would then grow whatever object you programmed it to create.
On a philosophical level, this work is exciting because it is a purely nonbiological growth
Piedra pulida yahoo dating that has many of the features we normally associate with biology. So using DNA this way is completely in the human tradition for technology. It seems strange only because all our associations with DNA are biological. When you regard DNA as a form of technology, does that change the way you look at people or at life in general?
Using DNA in this way certainly makes it possible to have
Piedra pulida yahoo dating different perspective on what life is.
Piedra pulida yahoo dating what we found with DNA: We can design DNA molecules to act as gates, act as motors, act as catalysts. These findings make it more plausible to view living things as software in a chemical programming language. Dating an amputee girl
Trees have no intention of making desks or houses. What is the biggest obstacle you face in turning all your amazing concepts into a reality? I want to be able to make molecules that work the way I ask them to! For someone who is trained in theoretical computer sciences, it is difficult starting a career as an experimental lab researcher.
We build and test systems, except the systems that we actually build and test are so much simpler than the systems we can write down on paper. There are many interesting things to think about at the conceptual level of how to structure programs, but at the moment we are very concerned
Piedra pulida yahoo dating the implementation issue and spending most of our time there. Several issues are limiting us.
Our DNA-based components bump into each other. Some of the components that are not supposed to react with each other do, anyway.
How do you plan to address those problems? We need to build in fault tolerance. One proposed reason for why biological systems are constantly making, then destroying, proteins is just so that we always have fresh molecules rather than moldy molecules on hand, which is potentially part of the solution to this cross-talk issue.
Another problem is that if you have many components, they all have to be at fairly low concentrations, and at low concentrations you have very slow
Piedra pulida yahoo dating. Are there ways to
Piedra pulida yahoo dating biomolecular computing happen at the brisk pace we associate with conventional computing?
We are not going to compete with electronic computers. To my mind, to manufacture things like that you need to grow them. Then the comparison is to biological
Piedra pulida yahoo dating. If you look at the timescales in biological development, they are often hours or days. You need the right thing to happen and at the right time to grow different parts Piedra pulida yahoo dating a structure.
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Erik Winfree, a professor of computer information and bioengineering at Caltech, is determined to harness all that evolution-honed machinery. He is seeking ways to exploit the ruts of cellular biology to create a new prototype of molecular-scale engineering. Although still in its betimes days, this line of research could lead to revolutionary ways of treating illness or creating confused machines by growing them rather than assembling them from parts.
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