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6 Things You Won't Believe Science Can Do With DNA

#3. DNA Neural Networks

Neural networks like the brain can recognize patterns and use them to react to new circumstances. But since many brains now recognize Jenny McCarthy as a medical expert, there's obviously something wrong with the natural method. Which is why scientists are now building neural networks directly from DNA, skipping the dangerous "grow for 20 years and maybe become a retard" step.

Getty
Stupid allegedly attractive people used to spread disease one person at a time.

Researchers at the California Institute of Technology have built logical gates out of DNA strands sticking together, which may be the first time any human has acted logically about getting sticky to exchange DNA. They built a set of gates and assembled them into a crude neural network computer.

Nature.com
As you can see, it's very simple.

That's the exact reverse of what most people do (use networked computers to release genetic material. With porn). So far, it can only complete very simple tasks, which is why they've trained it to recognize four famous scientists. Finally! Scientists who actually watch movies! The DNA mind is still weak and simple, so they're training it to recognize scientists as smart and famous and great and should totally be obeyed and not "deleted" as "inferior beings."

#2. Self-Healing Photonic Wires

DNA is an awesome tool for transferring information, but humanity has lasers for that now. And they're way cooler. If we were interested in how long it takes nature to do things, we'd still be sitting around waiting for woolly mammoths to die so we could eat. So if you want your parents' old DNA to survive in this world (and by definition, you're the person who cares most about that), we're going to need to jazz it up with glowing underlights and laser processing. And scientists have done exactly that. Researchers at the Chalmers University of Technology have turned the double helix into optical wiring:

DOI: 10.1021/ja803407t
If (a) is goddamn LASER-DNA, then (z) could probably destroy the universe. By replacing it with a cooler LASER-UNIVERSE.

They built photonic wires by jamming chromophores between the spokes of the double helix, just like you'd jam a stick in the spokes of a bicycle. Which is the sort of thing you'd suggest if you were too stupid or way too smart to be allowed in a biotechnology lab. Adding a Pacific Blue chromophore at one end and a much-less-imaginatively-named Cy3 at the other turns the genetic code into a one-way optical fiber. The result is optical wiring for nanomachinery. It would be inaccurate to call them fiber optics, because they don't work the same way. It would be more accurate to call them laser-driven cyborg gene wiring, so we don't know why so many headlines went with the wimpy "fiber optic" thing. Oh, and like every cyborg-genetic laser organism the Avengers ever faced, the wires are self-assembling and can therefore self-repair in case of damage.

#1. Anti-Cancer Programmable Drugbots

When idiots complain about scientists, they like to say there's still no cure for cancer. As if the idiots are just too busy trying out new ringtones to do it themselves. Or as if cancer was actually one thing instead of about a million different malfunctions. And science is the single, sole and only reason so many people are alive and survive long enough to suffer them in the first place.

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"Yeah, we'd be at least 50 percent never born, 25 percent child mortality and 24 percent dying in unknown squalor without science. Those loser nerds!"

It's not hard to kill cancer cells. It's extremely hard not to kill every other kind of cell while you're at it. Which is why researchers at Harvard have built a programmable drugbot that can target specific diseases. That is not science fiction. A microscopic DNA cargo container carries a chemical payload and springs open when molecular sensors detect multiple target conditions, and I repeat that this is not science fiction. Programmable drugs might sound like something a Cracked columnist would write an incredible book series about, because it totally is, but it's also something scientists have built.

DOI: 10.1126/science.1214081
The main part of the system is a hexagonal barrel, meaning this is both the cutting edge of nanotechnology and an early 3-D video game.

In the first tests, the spring-loaded shell blasts open, deploying its cargo as grappling hooks to clamp onto leukemia cells like the face-hugger from Alien, then fluorescing to mark the position. They literally mark the target for death so hard it glows in the dark. Other samples targeted lymphoma and neuroblastoma cell lines. The scientists also researched whether the drugbots can distinguish between sick and healthy cells, because they've seen movies about robots designed to "cure" humanity, and in mixed samples, the drugbots only tackled sick cells.

And yes, we did say the ability to target leukemia was just the first test. Other tests involved rather more Active Payloads, which amazingly isn't an action movie title.

Orion Pictures Corporation
Without that, we'll just go with RoboCop, because we always do. In our dreams and fan-fics.

One test robot locked on to leukemic cells and deployed a cargo of antibodies to suppress the sick cell's growth cycles. Another upgraded healthy T-cells by augmenting their path activation. It's ridiculously early in the testing stage yet, so don't start grabbing people in lab coats demanding they inject drugs that are now smarter than you. We can't just inject experimental nanomachines into people. Not because we're worried about the Hulk -- hell, if there was a chance of that, scientists would be doing it every week, and medical journals would be printed by Marvel. But this ability to logically target cells raises the idea of an injectable update patch for the human body, tuning every cell type for optimum function and maximum not-having-damn-cancer-ness.

We're building robots, computers, wiring and the ability to upgrade the human body. If anything did design DNA, they only did it to prove that science is right.

Luke has also found 6 Easy Ways to Make Every Video Game Better and 6 Fighters We Want to See in Street Fighter X Tekken. He also tumbles and has a website.

For more proof that science is both the reason you're able to sit on your ass so comfortably and why you should do more than that, check out The 6 Most Badass Stunts Ever Pulled in the Name of Science and 9 Badass Lasers That Prove the Death Star Isn't Far Off.

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