Mathematics + Genetics = Molecular Computing

The interdisciplinary comprehension and use of mathematics and computing in science are essential for research and development. Mathematics aids in analyzing and visualizing patterns in data collected on computers, and allows for representation of scientific phenomena (Meredith et al., 2007). The use of math also allows for expanding existing ideas and discovering new ones. In the last three decades, the integration of math, computing, and genetics has allowed for advancement in the field of molecular computing and its associated technologies.

Molecular computing is the use of chemical reactions between molecules of deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) in order to solve complex mathematical problems (Lee et al., 2021). At the base of the technology is complementary base pairing within DNA which enables the problem solving. A research team from Incheon National University in Korea recently developed a programable DNA-based microfluidic chip (Figure 1). Similar to electronic microchips, this DNA-based version is automated, and uses Boolean logic. Boolean logic is among one of the fundamental logics of computer science; it returns two possible states, true or false, in the answer to a mathematical question and develops a table to solve calculations, in this case using gel electrophoresis (Bhunia and Tehranipoor, 2019). The molecules of DNA used in the 3D printed microfluidic chip are single stranded in order to use other single strands of DNA as inputs (Lee et al., 2021). This means that in order for complex calculations to be completed, multiple reactions need to be performed where in each reaction single stranded DNA is paired with other different single stranded inputs to make double stranded DNA (Lee et al., 2021). To perform such calculations, the DNA-based microfluidic chip was designed to be controlled by a personal computer with an accompanying specialized application.

Figure 1: A: Image of programable a DNA-based microfluidic chip, where the scale bar is 1 cm. B: Schematic of the microfluid chip with two inputs (A and B). C: Gel electrophoresis system of Boolean logic, where True = 1 and False = 0 (Lee et al., 2021).

As a result of DNA molecules only being a few nanometers in length, a microchip with this molecule as its base has the ability to contain trillions of components and switches; this is far more than the traditional silicon-based technology that is currently in use (Liang et al., 2019). Further, this DNA-based technology uses less power than current electronics and would help to lower global energy consumption if this chip was developed further and became a market standard (Lee et al., 2021).

Mathematics is known as the language of the universe and its applications in science, especially in combination with computers, are endless. Without mathematics and computing, scientists would find it nearly impossible to further their understanding in almost every discipline. In combination with the genetic code that controls living organisms, mathematics allows for a myriad of new applications. Further, molecular computing is a relatively new field, but with advancements in technology and mathematics, this area will surely provide the world with new discoveries (Liang et al., 2019). Math forms the base for new ideas, computers provide the processing, genetics writes the biological code to which the ideas are applied, and together the three can change the scientific world.

References

Bhunia, S. and Tehranipoor, M., 2019. Chapter 2 – A Quick Overview of Electronic Hardware. In: Hardware Security. [online]. pp.23–45. https://doi.org/10.1016/B978-0-12-812477-2.00007-1.

Lee, W., Yu, M., Lim, D., Kang, T. and Song, Y., 2021. Programmable DNA-Based Boolean Logic Microfluidic Processing Unit. ACS Nano, 15(7), pp.11644–11654. https://doi.org/10.1021/acsnano.1c02153.

Lee, W., Yu, M., Lim, D., Kang, T. and Song, Y., 2021. Image of Programmable DNA-Based Boolean Logic Microfluidic Processing Unit. [image online] Available at: https://doi.org/10.1021/acsnano.1c02153. [Accessed 30 January 2022].

Liang, X., Zhu, W., Lv, Z. and Zou, Q., 2019. Molecular Computing and Bioinformatics. Molecules, 24(13), p.2358. https://doi.org/10.3390/molecules24132358.

Meredith, A., Rogers, P., Volkmann, M., Abell, S.K. and Park Rogers, M., 2007. Science and Mathematics-A Natural Connection. Science and Children, 45, pp.60–61.


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